The Bow (Hwal) – Review

Kim Ki-duk THE BOW, HWAL

A girl who thought the sea was the whole world, became the whole world to one old man. 

The Bow is a cinematic masterpiece.  A unique characteristic about Kim Ki-duk‘s  films.  His films are mostly symbolic, metaphorical.   So it will take a few moments to ‘adapt’ to each film, to get a feel of the direction he is headed, which are always pleasant.  These two films, Hwal (2005) and 3 – Iron (2004) do not have much dialogue but rather the movies are supported with keen visuals and brilliant acting of the movie’s main characters–which are almost always superb. In The Bow (2005)–the cinematic’s and limited dialogue are not for concern–it solely depend on whether or not you can accept the dynamics of the relationship between ‘The Bow’s’ main two characters: the Old man & the Young girl.

The old man (Seong-hwanf Jeon) owns and operates a fishing vessel which he goes to shore on a smaller motorized boat to pick up people who want to come out to sea and fish in peace. This is how he makes his living. He then returns to the main boat where the fishermen stay overnight or a few days just to fish.

He is not alone on this boat. A young girl (Yeo-reum Han) lives on the boat with him. She has been on this one boat since she was 7 years old. The story of how she came to only know the sea was the old man kidnapped her while she was lost from her parents on shore, he took her to his fishing platform. She appears in the movie to be around 17 years old. The old man has cared for her–feeding her, bathing her–and when she makes 18 years of age–he will make her his bride.

The old man is insanely jealous when the men who fish on the boat ‘notices’ the young girl–and arms himself with a bow to protect her. He also tells the fortunes of the fishermen by allowing the young girl to sway on a swing on the side of a boat–where he takes his bow on an opposite boat, and shoots arrows at an image–he shoots three arrows. Thereafter, the swinging girl remove the arrow and whispers the fortune in the ear of the old man.

Here is the conflict–a young and handsome student (Si-jeok Seo) came with his father to fish on the sea one day. The young girl notices this younger man and is in awe! The old man was careful it would seem before, not to bring young men on his boat. Instantly the two youth’s eyes meet–suddenly the sea is no longer the young girl’s interest–now her interest is focused on this new young fisherman and the old man does not like it.

There is a supreme sadness to this tale and one worth watching. As I have stated above, this is the lesser of the three movies I have seen by Ki-duk. But no less important that I will not refuse to recommend watching it.

A beautiful tale. A sad tale. A love story.

A girl who thought the sea was the whole world became the whole world to one old man‘ (2005).

The Bow, Hwal
  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 4 stars
  • Excellent

  • The Bow, Hwal
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  • Last modified: 2012-09-02

Review Summary:

Ki-duk Kim's 'The Bow' on a fishing boat, a 30-year old man has been raising a girl since she was a baby with the intention to marry on her 17th birthday.

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