Hong Sang-soo is a cumulative filmmaker. His artistic shifts are most transferring (generally solely transferring) framed inside the bigger context of his work. The stylistic detour within the coda of The Novelist’s Movie, as an illustration, is probably going solely significant to viewers acquainted with Hong’s world and attuned to the momentous feeling a small change in his aesthetic paradigm provides. Appreciating Hong movies tends be foremost an act of contextualization. I preface this evaluation with that acknowledgement as a result of In Water, greater than something he’s made, seemingly gained’t attraction to detractors or firstcomers. It’s a movie so small it’s liable to seep by the cracks of your fingers, but additionally one of the vital distinctive additions to his filmography.
In typical Hong style, In Water is about an artist and their craft. With none script or plan, a younger filmmaker named Sungmo (Shin Seokho) enlists two colleagues to shoot a brief movie. They spend leisurely days strolling, chatting, location scouting, and consuming (a solid of solely younger characters is atypical for Hong, as are the characters’ pizza-and-soda diets). Sungmo is at an inside crossroad, burdened with self-doubts, monetary considerations, and loneliness. His isolation is accentuated by a young flirtation which sparks between his collaborators as they tease one another about Tae Kwon Do strikes and potential apparitions. As all the time, Hong’s a filmmaker enraptured by quotidian particulars, permitting them to take highlight over grand narrative arcs.
In the obvious aesthetic deviation of Hong’s oeuvre, he pictures In Water nearly solely out-of-focus. “I’m sick of a pointy picture,” he defined in a post-screening Berlinale Q&A. Nevertheless it’s greater than that. Over the past twenty years, Hong’s eyesight has drastically deteriorated to the purpose the place, with out corrective lenses, his personal pure imaginative and prescient is an enormous blur. In Water’s pictures simulate how Hong‘s eyes see the world: an limitless fog, the place types bleed into one another and bounds between objects and our bodies change into much less tangible.
On this sense (and this sense solely), In Water evokes Derek Jarman’s Blue: an aesthetically monolithic movie the place voiceover and soundscape accompany an unchanging blue display. Within the wake of Jarman’s personal misplaced imaginative and prescient throughout his battle with AIDS, his eyesight was decreased to a perpetual blueness. Jarman’s movie presents his personal actuality, foregrounding his distinctive sensory expertise. Within the spirit of Blue, Hong prioritizes his personal notion over readability and sharpness. Although his artistry shares little else in widespread with Jarman, each filmmakers place their very own eyesight as a substitute visible configuration. Each motion pictures are among the newest late-style possible. They’re movies with full apathy in the direction of spectators’ expectations, liberated from the inflexible confines of normal image-making. They exist for themselves, with nothing to show.
This can be a laidback and stress-free film even by Hong’s requirements. There’s nearly no interpersonal battle, simply glimmers of an aching melancholia. A lot of the feeling stems from Sungmo and the quiet orb of uncertainty which engulfs him. At one level, Hong movies him standing static in a yard, soundtracked by grating wind. The sounds are crisp whereas the picture stays blurred. It’s a second with out motion, extended into intense lonesomeness. Later, in a extra standard beat, he calls an ex-girlfriend on the cellphone. There’s nothing revealing of their chat, simply the innate melancholy of the previous flooding into the current. As a result of In Water avoids outward emotional shows, its quiets and stillnesses bear a poignant nakedness.
Nonetheless, I used to be struck by how a lot much less emotional In Water is than most Hong motion pictures. Its joys and sadnesses are significantly muted and the characters really feel a bit obscure. At occasions, the movie feels extra like a conceptual train: an alien type for a Hong film to take! Nevertheless, the final shot of the film is among the many most transferring in Hong’s physique of labor. Its music, length, and the out-of-focusness lead to a fragile and bittersweet finale. The shot rests someplace between tangibility and abstraction: an ideal blur. It’s a picture of absolute sincerity.