Film - Deer Flower


Susan Omand watches a deer little Korean animation with Deer Flower from Kangmin Kim...

In the summer of 1992, Dujung, an elementary student, goes to a farm in the suburbs with his parents. While his parents believe the expensive and rare specialty from the farm will strengthen their son’s body, Dujung suffers side effects.

Wow! Erm.... yeah, wow. This award-winning short, 7 minute, animated film from director Kangmin Kim appeals to me on so many levels. The look of the animation, with its folded-box style angular models and stop-motion filming, has a real post-modernist vibe to it and stills from the film would not look out of place in a modern art gallery beside other pop-art masterpieces. Beautifully constructed and shot, it goes for the nostalgia aspect of the kid’s teatime TV animations from back in the day but there’s also an element of disquieting strangeness to it that smacks of the up-to-the-minute sideways look at pop-culture evident in the artwork of Grayson Perry, Roy Lichtenstein or Richard Hamilton, only with that far eastern influence that you’d only get from Korea.

The story itself also “feels” Korean, even without the language and subtitles, and I know that’s a daft thing to say but I can’t really think of how else to explain it. It has the utterly horrifying psychological shock and physical gore (albeit Plasticine this time) that I love so much about the Korean horror industry in that it induces a morbid fascination - you can’t bear to watch and you can’t bear to look away. But the film is by turns also very beautiful in parts, with the sun glinting through paper trees, the gentleness of the boy and the surface tranquility of the deer along with the normality of the family outing scenario which makes the shocking elements even more haunting.

The soundtrack too is stunning and perfect for the imagery – from the vibrant static feedback at the start through the discordant flutes and percussion guaranteed to keep you on edge to the uber seventies sounding Korean song that closes the film that is so contrastingly upbeat and harmonious that, even without the visuals, you are put through the ringer of emotions.

The whole thing gives me the same set of feelings that I had when I was lucky enough to wander round the Guggenheim museum in New York – it’s like a disorientating, mind-expanding, drug fuelled fantasy. There’s such an overpowering assault to the senses that both horrifies and fascinates in equal measure, as you witness something that you’re not entirely sure of, that is almost too much to take in, but you know you need more of it. There’s that all encompassing pull that entices you in to somewhere you feel quite a bit out of your comfort zone, doing something that feels almost illicit, but you just can’t help yourself. After watching Deer Flower, you are left with that post-dream-state impression where you don’t quite understand what the hell just happened and you’re not really sure yet if you want to do it again but you do know you’re bloody glad you experienced it once.

Deer Flower will be screened on the 15th of November as part of the London Korean Film Festival - watch the trailer below, then find out more about the festival and book tickets here.

Images - London Flair and LKFF
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