Disavowing The Isle: Masochism and New Extremity
This article undertakes a thematic and aesthetic analysis of The Isle (Seom 2002, dir. Kim Ki-duk) and conceptualizes the theme of disavowal in association with UK audience expectations of popular and “extreme” Asian cinema. In addition, this work also seeks to reframe Kim
beyond Asia extreme in a framework around intimacy and pain more akin to European extreme cinema. Via close reading, the complex representations of brutal intimacy found in this film can, I argue, be understood in-line with the Korean concept of “han,” marginality, and masochism.
Considering formal and stylistic ellipses within the text, I argue that The Isle opens up a space for audiences to consider what is disavowed, unseen, and unsaid in Kim’s work.