My Beautiful Girl Mari
((summary taken from asianmediawiki.com))
Nam-woo and Jun-ho have grown up as best friends in a Korean fishing village. As the film opens, the two are meeting again as adults. Jun-ho offers Nam-woo a small box, which launches a flashback to their childhood days. The two children each have social problems: Nam-woo has been solitary and detached since his father died, keeping only Jun-ho and a stray cat named Yo as friends, while Jun-ho is teased for his rich family (and because he's a bit of a whiner).
The combination of a special marble and a condemned lighthouse send Nam-woo into an alternate world of imagination, where he finds huge flowers and coral, clouds on strings, flying globefish, a giant dog and a mute girl covered in wool who he calls Mari. During a storm, in a moment of danger, fantasy appears to converge with reality. But as the vision fades, Nam-woo and Jun-ho move on with their lives.
First off, the visuals for this film were beautiful. Very different, true, but stunning, breathtaking, and imaginative nonetheless. It's much flatter than the anime style I'm used too, but it didn't take me long to get drawn into the story despite the change. The opening sequence in particular does an excellent job of setting the tone of the movie, as well as establishing the strange (oftentimes surreal) feel that permeates almost every scene. The seagull itself seems to be an extension of the imaginary world which Mari inhabits; it's almost too perfect and appears out of place in that huge city, especially in the winter landscape surrounding it. And the transition to Nam-woo with the seagull was perfect: I could almost see Mari in the bird, and loved the fact that only Nam-woo seems surprised to see it perched outside his office's window. (At least I think it was Nam-woo).
And the story itself was very easy to relate too: most people can understand the pain of losing a friend to another city, or of dealing with an expected (and unwanted) possible addition to your family. And that loneliness and uncertainty of childhood--when you're on the brink of adolescence-- we've all experienced it in one way or another. But unfortunately for most of us, we don't have a fantastical world in which we can escape. Although come to think of it, there is this old abandoned lighthouse near my house... ;)
There was just so much to gain from this movie it would be impossible to try to list everything. But really, this would be the perfect film to watch in a college class. It would be interesting to see what kinds of things people come up with to explain the different worlds contained within this movie--real and imaginary, although that line is often blurred-- and the deeper meanings which I'm certain I've missed.
Overall, a great achievement in film. It'll definitely make you think, at least... that, or scratch your head in confusion and make you wonder what you just watched. But one thing's for sure: the visuals alone are reason enough to give this movie a try. Like it or hate it, it's impossible to watch it and not feel something.