Kim Ki-duk’s film arrives in the UK on a wave of queasy controversy, trailing anecdotes of punters fainting and vomiting at festival screenings. Though it’s since been snipped by the BBFC (never mind the humans, it’s the animal cruelty that’s deemed offensive), it remains a unique, gruesome experience.
Set in a floating fishing resort of deceptive prettiness, The Isle charts a destructive affair between mute prostitute Hee-jin (Suh Jung) and fugitive murderer Hyun-shik (Kim Yoo-suk), a man whose single-minded enthusiasm for fish-hooks would have Hellraiser’s Cenobites edging towards the nearest bathroom. Angling tackle serves as an eye-watering metaphor for relationships here as the lovers literally reel each other in.
The Korean director has an exquisite eye for the watery beauty of his isolated world, but fails to plumb the human depths that might justify his taste for misogynistic brutality. Audiences are more likely to be baited than hooked.