I’m a Cyborg (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
July 6, 2010 by Dennis Amith
From the director of “JSA”, “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” and “Old Boy” comes a dark comedy that is more creative and surreal. Some may find it a bit too surreal for their taste but overall, for those open to something different, should give “I’m a Cyborg” a try!
Image © 2008 Tartan Video. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: I’m a Cyborg
DURATION: 105 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Amamorphic 1:77:1, Korean DTS-HD MA and Dolby TrueHD, English subtitles
COMPANY: Tartan Video
RATED: Suitable only for people 15 years and over (Contains moderate martial arts violence and bloody injury)
RELEASE DATE: 2010
Directed by Chan-wook Park
Written by Seo-Geyong Jeong, Chan-wook Park
Executive Producer: Miky Lee, Tae-hun Lee
Producer: Chun-yeong Lee, Chan-wook Park
Associate Producer: June Lee
Music by Yeong-wook Jo
Cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung
Edited by Jae-beom Kim, Sang-Beom Kim
Visual Effects by Jeon-hyeong Lee
Su-jeong Lim as Cha Young-goon
Rain as Park Il-sun
Hie-jin Choi as Choi Seul-gi
Byeong-ok Kim as Judge
Yong-neyo Lee as Young-goon’s mother
Dal-su Oh as Shin Duk-cheon
Ho-jeong Yu – Il-sun’s mother
I’M A CYBORG is a charming fantasy comedy about a young girl who’s admitted to a mental institution, believing herself to be a cyborg. She befriends a fellow inmate who has the ability to steal people’s personality traits, but he’s determined to protect her.
In 2006, the South Korean surreal comedy film “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK” from director Park Chan-wook was released.
With Park’s work with “JSA”, “Oldboy” and “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” attracting many international fans, Park wanted to try something much more different, more on the arthouse side by creating a film that would have a surreal dreamlike feel. Because of its surreal nature, the film did well in Korea during its opening weekend but quickly plummeted in sales by its second. Lauded by viewers who felt it was a wonderful, symbolic and unique style of film, those who are followers of Park’s more violent and serious works were a bit dismayed by the film as somewhat incomprehensible. Also, the film would mark the first theatrical role for Korea’s hot pop star Rain and would bring in an audience not used to seeing this certain style of film.
“I’m a Cyborg” is definitely a film that one will either love or hate and most that I’ve read disliking it was more because of the film’s surrealist take and not coming up with a clear-cut ending. While those who lauded the film enjoyed the symbolic nature of the film, it’s smart use of imagery and Park Chan-wook’s ability to step away from the style of film’s that he is accustomed of doing and doing something else, whether or not his fans approve.
“I’m a Cyborg” is a film that revolves around a young woman named Cha Young-goon. Her grandmother was taken to a mental hospital because she believed she was a rat (and took care of the rats at the home) and would feed on radishes. Meanwhile, Young-good really believes she is a cyborg.
One day, while listening to a radio, she hears voices which prompts her to cut open her arm, put a wire inside her arm and plug it into a socket and therefore electrifying her but surviving the ordeal.
Young-goon now lives in a mental institution but she is not communicative at all and she truly believes that she is a cyborg that she has stop eating normal food and licks batteries for power.
In this mental hospital, she runs across a woman who lies all the time; a woman who has an eating problem and believes she has magic slippers that enable her to fly; a man who thinks he causes problems for everyone and walks backwards; a young woman who has attempted to become a Swiss singer but never quite made it and a man named Park Il-sun (played by the pop artist, Rain).
Park Il-sun is a guy who had a nervous breakdown after his mother left him. He became anti-social, a thief and now at the mental hospital, a man who has led others to believe that he has the powers to switch bodies or to remove certain abilities from a person. Park is known by sporting a different mask but it’s his mysterious style of getting close to other people.
And one of those people is Young-goon. Fascinated by her belief that she is a cyborg and her ability to talk to machines by wearing her grandmother’s dentures, he finds himself wanting to get closer to her and also helping her out. But when he learns that the voices that Young-goon is hearing are wanting her to murder the mental hospital workers, he is fascinated by her imagination (or her belief that she is a cyborg) and wants to be closer to her.
“I’m a Cyborg” is presented in 1080p (Anamorphic 1:77:1) on a BD25 Disc. The film showcases the vibrant colors of the film. From the vibrant colors of the outdoors to the glowing of Young-goon’s toes, there is a good amount of detail featured on the Blu-ray disc. I didn’t notice any major compression issues or combing. Blacks were nice and deep and for the most part, very good picture quality.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“I’m a Cyborg” is presented in Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 but also two lossless audio tracks. One in DTS-HD MA and the other in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The film tends to utilize various sounds especially during the dream moments of Young-goon. From the sound of her becoming a robot and firing machine guns on everyone around her, to thunder in the background or the hint of crowd ambiance at the mental hospital, there is a good use of surround channels and dialogue is clean and understandable through the center channel. But because this is a BD25 disc, I was a bit surprised to see three audio tracks, especially two lossless audio tracks (DTS-HD and Dolby TrueHd codecs) included.
Subtitles are in English and found no major typo’s or errors. Subtitles were easy to read.
“I’m a Cyborg” comes with the following special features:
Please note: This is an all-region Blu-ray but there are times when the special features for a UK Blu-ray will not work on a REGION A Blu-ray player. For “I’m a Cyborg”, I was unable to play the special features on a Magnavox Blu-ray player. Usually, I’m able to play it on a PS3 Blu-ray player but in this case, I was unable to access the special features at all.
- Making of
- Exclusive Interview with Director Chan-wook Park
- Music Video
- Original Theatrical Trailers
“I’m a Cyborg” can be seen as a film about love or a film devoid of love until two people who have mental problems find comfort within each other.
And this is not an easy description to make because typically, when you discuss a film that utilizes characters with mental problems or deal with some sort of insanity, one tends to think of a film with a darker storyline. But director Park Chan-wook avoids the banality by giving these characters some depth by using dreamlike-states as a way to show the viewer of what kind of mindset these individuals are having.
From Young-goon’s thoughts of killing all hospital workers, to another patient who feels she can fly with her special socks, many may watch this film and enjoy it almost like a comedy but when the second half of the film rolls in, “I’m a Cyborg” becomes more of a film of two people who literally have nothing but each other.
Although the viewer is not explained how things got so bad with Young-goon or Park, you pretty much take their mental illness as what is and wonder if they will eventually get better. And because of their mental illness, those around them have literally shunned them but for both of these main characters, they start to realize that they are not alone and they have each other. Park knows that she is not a cyborg but he doesn’t try to prove her wrong, he supports her no matter what.
And it is true that the film’s ending may be a bit disingenuous. One may not feel they are getting any closure to these characters but it’s all about the symbols shown in the film. I’ve read many write ups from viewers who have problems enjoying the film because there is no romance or some sort of fitting climax nor a fitting ending. But my feeling is that both of the main characters in the film have mental issues that border to near insanity. Can these two individuals even comprehend what a relationship or a bond is? In a typical movie sense, we are not going to get any liplocking or passionate love making, director Park Chan-wook did a good job in not following the usual path in featuring two people with mental illness. They discover things in their own way, good or bad.
Young-goon believes that Park has powers to help her achieve her goal as a cyborg, Park feels that he cares for her to support her and her mindset of believing she is a cyborg and bet there for her. It may seem unusual but if one loves another, they are willing to do what they can to maintain that love and Park does it his own way, especially a touching moment in order to become healthy.
With that being said, “I’m a Cyborg” won’t be for everyone. Aside from it’s surreal nature, some may find the violence scenes to be a bit overbearing. There are several times where Young-goon is seen imagining herself turning into a robot and gunning down all the hospital workers. It’s a scene that doesn’t surprise me (coming from director Park Chan-wook) but I’m sure it may be a bit too graphical to some viewers and although a dream sequence, for those expecting a romantic comedy, this is more of a dark comedy and not for those expecting a blossoming romance.
I have to give credit to both main talents Su-jeong Lim and Rain. Su-jeong Lim playing the part of Young-goon and her portrayal of a girl with a mental illness but also a character that believes she is a cyborg but yet having human emotions that she has difficulty separating from. Pop star Rain does an effective job playing the main lead Park Il-sun. It’s quite interesting as other Asian pop stars tend to get music based or romantic comedy type of roles for their first job and often at times, they are more or less taking on a supporting role. But for Rain to take on a major lead role, especially a character that also has a mental illness but at the same time, aware of his emotions towards Young-goon was also well done.
As for the Blu-ray, a very solid Blu-ray release from Tartan Video. Beautiful and vibrant picture quality, clear audio but unfortunately, utilizing two Blu-ray players, was unable to access the special features. But still, considering its price and it is an all-region disc, it may work on other Blu-ray players and for its price, definitely makes this Blu-ray release worth checking out.
Overall, “I’m a Cyborg” is a film that one would consider it a true masterpiece by Park Chan-wook, while others may feel that the film doesn’t suit Park Chan-wook at all. Needless to say, I personally feel that it was great for the director to undertake a different style of film that he was known for and his story captures the life of these two main characters who have nothing, no one but each other to count on and possibly find a purpose of living.
If you are a viewer who has a difficult time understanding the ending, I have only one hint to give you and that is too look closely on what is connected to the antenna on top.
“I’m a Cyborg” is a well-done film and most definitely recommended!
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