Director – Bong Joon Young – 2016 – South Korea – 11m
Doesn’t anyone else hear those disturbing whines and explosions you do? – in the KAFA Shorts: A Midsummer’s Fantasia programme from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival 2023 which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 2nd to Thursday, November 16th
It took me a while to work out – or at least hazard a guess – that the central character here is a girl: the actress has one of those androgynous faces that you can read as either male or female, and the character’s garb if anything suggests a young man rather than a young woman. Perhaps that contributes further to the eerie narrative as the character starts hearing noises – a series of brief whines getting higher and higher, which presage later sounds like fireworks or bombs going off. But there’s nothing to e seen to match these sounds; only the sounds themselves, And the character appears to be the only person on the bus who can hear them.
Well, not quite. A man is wearing headphones, and when he accosts her and insist she tries them on, she discovers that they can cut the sound down to quite some degree. He, too, suffers from the same aural affliction. But is it an affliction, or are they hearing something that’s really there that no-one else is able to hear?
The film’s narrative deftly walks a tightrope so that you never find out one way or the other. It’s the type of simple idea that works very well indeed in a short film, an audiovisual conundrum that stays with you afterwards and makes you think about what it might be supposed to mean.
Hz plays in the KAFA Shorts: A Midsummer’s Fantasia programme from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival 2023 which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 2nd to Thursday, November 16th.