Made with his brother Chan-kyong, Park Chan-wook’s cacophonous avant-garde short journeys into the spirit world to explore notions of embodiment and disembodiment. So nightmarishly weird, Night Fishing feels almost Lynchian: its central fisherman is haunted by the strange discoveries he makes in tufts of grass and below the surface of a lake, while dream sequences and surreal visions are caught between the fading superimposition of one layer of film on top of another. Blackening the edges of the frame to leave their characters stranded in the darkness of the night, in which they might perhaps make intimate acquaintance with a corpse vomiting back to life, the Park brothers never disguise their dislike of humans.
The oblique 30-minute short amounts to more of an exercise in filmmaking technique than a title in itself. Shot as part of the Korean marketing campaign for the iPhone 4, the Parks capitalise on the device’s versatility without using the lo-fi picture as a Blair Witch gimmick. This is a fairly unsuccessful marketing campaign, since the film really doesn’t look that good; instead, it demonstrates what a handheld device enables. The low definition slows the picture right down until its single frames are visible as if – like the shamanic ritualism that concludes the short – it were to transcend the material world.
Its original title, Paranmanjang, loosely translates into “Life of Ups and Downs”, or “A Checkered Past”, fitting the film’s rejection of coherent narrative trajectory in favour of a non-sequential vignette mosaic. Disobedient of standard filmmaking procedure, the Parks employ unsteady, unsettling camerawork that makes a feature out of vertiginous wide shots and frames that are flipped upside-down, as well as one which is plunged underwater. Night Fishing may have very little logic behind it, but its experimental direction and surreal imagery were enough to win it the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at Berlin.
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CAST: Lee Jung-hyun, Oh Kwang-rok
DIRECTOR: Park Chan-Wook, Park Chan-kyong
SYNOPSIS: Late one night, a fisherman reels in an unexpected catch.