Metamorphoses (변신이야기, OH In-chun, 2011)

Metamorphoses [변신이야기literal translation, transformation stories] is a short film by OH In-chun. The film begins with Sung-gil Oh, a comic book (manhwa/만화) artist, sat in his car struggling to compose his next story while talking to his girlfriend on his mobile (a shit flip-phone as it is later called by another character). Sung-gil gets out of the car, and in vain attempts to attract the attention of a beautiful young woman who jogs past him without acknowledging his presence. She drops her MP3 player, which Sung-gil picks up and runs after her to return it. Unfortunately for Sung-gil, he runs into a gang of 5 young men who terrorize our unlikely hero before he seeks shelter in a storehouse and is ‘rescued’ by a security guard -who like the other characters in the film is not who he appears to be – hence the English title of the short, Metamorphoses.

Running at a little under 30 minutes, Metamorphoses is an accomplished  piece of cinema which effectively and effortlessly mixes together elements of horror, action and fantasy genres. The action sequences are nicely realized, and the use of the free camera/shaky cam in these sequences, is not, for a change, overused. The shaky cam adds pace and tension as Sung-gil tries to flee his persecutors, and frenetic pace to the bloody action sequences in the storehouse when the tables are turned on the young gang. The horror is nicely balanced by a strong vein of humor throughout, which includes the director casting himself as a victim of the gang, whose dismembered arm Sung-gil discovers to his horror,  and about who one of the gang comments: “The guy that looked like E.T. with small eyes” and the dismissal of Sung-gil’s crucifix by the security guard turned vampire – as he is, along with the beautiful girl that leads Oh into danger – a “Buddhist vampire.”  The violence which erupts towards the end of the film, is an apt cinematic realization of the conventions of manhwa, with copious amounts of blood gushing out as dismembered limbs and a gouged out eye fly through the air. While OH cites diverse influences on his work including Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Transformations) and Korean traditional fairy tales of goblins (doggabi/도깨비), the shift from one genre to another and back marks Metamorphoses out as uniquely Korean and demonstrates the reason why South Korean cinema is generating so much interest within the global marketplace. There is a sense of innovation and inventiveness about contemporary South Korean Cinema, and in particular the manner in which it fuses the global with the local to produce something special as can be seen in Director OH’s Metamorphoses.

Cast: YOO Jeong-Ho, DONG Hyeon-bae, SONG Jae-hee, KIM Hyung-Hwan, JUNG Sung-hoon, SEO Sung-min, NOH Gi-Ju, Heeju

Written and Directed : OH In-chun

Director of Photography: UM Tae-Sik

Produced by: SHIN Sang-ho

Action Choreographed by: JEONG Hee-Jun

Production Designer: Frances E. OK

Make-up and Special Effects Supervisor: LEE Chang-man

Costume Designer: Frances E. OK

Edited by: OH In-chun

Music: Clarice E. OK

More detailed information on Director OH and Metamorphoses can be found at the HanCinema: The Korean Movie and Drama Database including details of how to contact the Director if you wish to view the film (which I highly recommend): Film Review: Inchun Oh\’s \”Metamorphoses\”

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