Directed by Kim Ki-duk, starring Lee Seung-yeon and Jae Hee.
Kim Ki-duk is known for his films with hard-to-express characters, but he expresses them wonderfully in the refreshing, almost wordless '3-Iron'. It seems strange to name a film after the least used golf club, the 3-Iron, especially when it has nothing to do with golf. This is a simple, Korean film niched between the quirky, the intriguing and the arty.
Tae-suk (Hee) is a bit of a lost soul, drifting around on his motorbike, looking for an empty house to occupy for the night, every night. But he's quietly content, quietly, being the operative word. By day, he sticks flyers on doors and by night he breaks into the houses that still have the flyers outside, knowing they are empty. But, he's not a thief and he doesn't destroy anything.
In fact, he does the opposite. He is the stranger, unlocking the empty houses, setting them free and then travelling on to find his destiny. Once inside, he acts as if the house is his home. He takes long baths, walks around naked, listens to music but also does the laundry, fixes anything broken (like weighing scales, stereos and clocks) and waters the plants. With his digital camera, he takes self-portraits in every house.
One day he enters the house of Sun-hwa (Seung-yeon), a beautiful former model, now a battered, shattered wife, unaware that she is home. She lurks from behind walls at this stranger in her home, fascinated, but not frightened by what he does. That night, while he is in her bed, she walks in on him. The shocked Tae-suk is just about to exit when the phone rings. It's Sun-hwa's husband. Tae-suk, seeing the bruises on her face and the begging in her eyes, knows that she wants to be saved, but he leaves.
Consumed by her image in his head, he returns that night. She feels comfortable in his presence, knowing he is there, though not seeing him. But Sun-hwa's violent husband returns home and Tae-suk belts him down with swings from the 3-Iron, until he's unconscious.
Silently, the two comfortable strangers leave on a motorbike to find an empty house. From that moment they understand each other, without words, and live a life of entering other empty homes. The two lost souls slowly begin to fall in love.
But inside one of the houses, they find a blood-drenched body. They give the body a decent burial and start living in the house as if it were their own. A knock on the door brings the dead man's son, who's looking for his father. Both are taken away by the police.
Tae-suk is arrested for murder, burglary and kidnap and Sun-hwa is unwillingly returned to her violent husband. While she waits, quietly, for her lover to be released from prison, he finds a new way to entertain himself, just passing time, waiting to see his destiny again.
A vibe of magic and sheer beauty surrounds Tae-suk and Sun-hwa's relationship. It's silent, delicate and understood. Ninety percent of the film depends on their wordless acting, their facial expressions, their connection, and it's an absolute success. Everything about this film screams free-spirit - the beautiful simplicity and Seung-yeon and Hee's seamless acting.
'3-Iron' can be monotonous at times, more so in its silence than its recurring events. It is slow and intriguing, an always random story with some quiet humour, that could definitely be enjoyed on a quiet night in.