Korean writer-director Kim Ki-Duk’s first movie
(1996) is technically and structurally very rough, which is understandable considering Kim had no background and training in filmmaking before making Crocodile. However, from the start he’s had a knack for creating very emotionally and visually intense scenes, that make you forgive and forget the obvious flaws.
One such scene is the opening scene of Crocodile. I would like to show you the scene but I can’t find it anywhere online. So I’m going to quickly describe what happens in the scene, then explain why I think it is such a great scene to start the movie with.
Water splashes as something heavy crashes into the river. Sitting far up the river bank, CROCODILE (late-20s) watches a man drown next to one of the tower foundations of the massive bridge with his monocular with wide-eyed interest. In the moon light, we can see that he has a dark bruise on the left side of his face. After a moment, he lowers the monocular, and fishes out a packet of cigarettes from his jacket pocket.
Next to Crocodile, an OLD MAN sits up from under his blanket, puts on his glasses and worriedly scans the river. Crocodile takes his time taking a cigarrette out and lighting it with his fancy lighter. The old man turns his gaze to Crocodile, who is now puffing on his cigarette with no care in the world. The Old Man keeps staring at him.
After a moment, Crocodile spares the Old Man a quick glance, and gets up. He spits his cigarette to the side and starts undressing. After taking off the last piece of his clothing, he walks down the concrete slope toward the river, and dives into the dark water.
Up on the river bank, the Old Man and a KID who’s now awake too, wait impatiently. Crocodile comes out of the water, holding a wallet in his hand. He looks through its contents, and finds some money. He drops the wallet and folding the bills with a satisfied grin.
Ok, so that’s not such a “quick” description, but I’ve written it already. That scene lasts exactly 2 minutes in the movie, and it’s shot pretty straight forward. From the start you can see that it’s a very low budget film, made by not very technically skilled filmmakers, but it’s such a great piece of storytelling.
First of all, the idea of someone robbing the corpses of people who commit suicide by jumping off the bridge is very interesting, sad and morally twisted all at the same time. That little scene sets the tone for the whole movie, and tells us that our protagonist is a homeless man and a scavenger with very twisted morality. His ability to swim well leads to some very beautiful underwater scenes later in the movie. Crocodile can hold his breath for a very long time, and so the depths of the Han river becomes his place of retreat from all his troubles and ugliness of the world, which leads to one of the most hauntingly beautiful movie endings. Kim Ki-duk starts and ends this movie with very emotionally powerful scenes, something he’s repeatedly done with his later movies.
As part of building my “artistic family tree”, I’m watching and studying the works of my favorite filmmakers, and Kim Ki-duk is a filmmaker that I admire a lot. I have seen some of his later films, but now I’m going back and watching everything from the beginning, and reading any book about him I can find to gain more insight into what goes on inside the mind of this mad genius. If you’ve seen his documentary Arirang, you know what I’m talking about. Now, it’s time to watch