REVIEW: 뫼비우스 [Moebiuseu] [Moebius] [2013]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½


Rating: NR | Runtime: 89 minutes | Release Date: September 5th, 2013 (South Korea)
Studio: N.E.W. / RAM Releasing / Film Movement
Director(s): Ki-duk Kim
Writer(s): Ki-duk Kim

“Whole body is genital”

If the whole “you’ll go blind” line doesn’t detract your kid from masturbating, controversial writer/director Ki-duk Kim has the solution. Just because the son in뫼비우스 [Moebiuseu] [Moebius] attracts the ire of his mother specifically due to his coveting the woman his father is having an affair with doesn’t lessen its impact. I assure you. The effect of watching said mother slice off said son’s penis remains the same. Well, at least until he discovers the sensual pleasures of pain. Hell, that might cause him to sever his own. So maybe shut the film off after the first ten minutes expire. That should sufficiently scare him into believing his underwear is a chastity belt and stop him from falling prey to desire. That is the purpose of the film, right? It’s a hard-lined cautionary tale?

No, not quite. What it actually is, however, I can’t say besides hypothesizing reasons for its title. After all, a Möbius strip is a single-edged, continuous plane allowing anything walking along it to end up back at its start without leaving its path. This idea comes into play at the film’s completion with an impossible revelation that a character from the start is someone he cannot be if the laws of time and space are anything but “Doctor Who” levels of science fiction. Looking at the whole therefore proves a theme declaring that whatever will happen will despite any diversions manufactured along the way. Others may get caught in the wake to add to the pile of destruction, but all attempts to make things right eventually become temporary fixes that cause more harm than help.

Honestly, though, I’m not sure anyone will pay attention to anything besides the obscene subject matter on its surface. With the warped Oedipal complex, electrically charged sadomasochism between a rapist and his victim, the idea of genital transplantation, and notion that one’s penis does actually have a mind of its own and lusts after its personal object of affection regardless of the man wielding it, it’s hard to look deeper for meaning. We know there’s something there—Kim wouldn’t cast Eun-Woo Lee as both mother and mistress if he wasn’t commenting on the fickle and oftentimes unexplainable motivations men and women have concerning their libido. It isn’t only about the unhealthy and unwitting love triangle between father, mother, and son that fascinates. Their neighborhood convenience store harlot seems very willing to double dip into the gene pool regardless.

Despite the strangest, titillating grotesquery since David Cronenberg‘s Crash, the most memorable aspect of Moebius is that its entire 90-minute runtime is devoid of words. I thought maybe this decision was simply to allow us to focus on the insanity of those first ten minutes as glares shared by father (Jae-hyeon Jo), mother (Lee), and son (Young-Ju Seo) spoke much louder than words ever could. But then thirty minutes went by with only screams of agony and ecstasy to show for it. Then sixty, then ninety, and lo and behold the final, silently frightening smirk ushers in the credits. But there isn’t one moment that would have been better suited by someone telling another exactly what was on his/her mind. Their actions are all completely transparent—albeit utterly unsettling—and nothing gets lost in translation.

I’m not sure there’s really anything left to say without giving a blow-by-blow summary that will only ruin the film’s ability to test your threshold for squeamishness. The film is a wall-to-wall quest for orgasm from whoever is willing and able to get it up. And if there’s nothing to get up, self-mutilation will suffice. Maybe Ki-duk Kim simply found an article about arousal from pain and thought cutting off his lead’s penis would force him into testing it out. Maybe the catalyst was something else completely. Either way, Moebius is obviously not for everyone and perhaps ultimately little more than a vehicle for shock value. Sadly (thankfully?) its ability to burrow into my brain to try and dissect its true worth is totally outweighed by my inevitable refusal to ever willingly watch it again.


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