I'm A Cyborg headline image


"How can anyone steal Thursday? It's ridiculous... Oh, Thursday's panties are gone!... he's such a good thief"

If you were to cross "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" with "Amelie" and add a healthy dose of "Terminator" you would come pretty close to getting "I'm A Cyborg". Known internationally as "I'm A Cyborg, but that's OK", the film is the creation of Park Chan-wook - the writer/director behind the hugely successful Vengeance trilogy - and though its concept is a major departure from those his unique style (and penchant for ultra violent scenes) is still clearly evident. It's creation came about as a result of Chan-wook's desire to create a film which his fifteen year old daughter and her friends could watch at the cinema (his earlier films all having 18 certificates), but before we go any further don't think that this is a kid's movie - it's not.

"I'm A Cyborg" tells the story of Young-goon - recently admitted to a psychiatric hospital following what is believed to have been a suicide attempt. The film begins with a doctor talking to Young-goon's mother, following the "accident" while flashbacks tell the real story of the incident in question. It turns out that Young-goon has for a long time thought that she is a cyborg. She talks to lights, vending machines and electronic equipment in an attempt to discover the purpose of her existence but can only be understood by them when she's wearing her granny's dentures. She believes that human food will cause her to break and attempts to charge herself by licking the ends of batteries, however this method of charging doesn't seem to be very efficient and so when the tannoy at her place of employment (on an electronics assembly line) tells her to cut her wrists, insert electric cables into the wounds and plug herself into the mains she does so without hesitation - electrocuting herself in the process.

Once admitted to the psychiatric hospital the radio broadcasts which she listens to every night tell her that she must kill all the "white 'uns" (doctors and nurses) to be able to return her granny's dentures to her - as without them her granny cannot eat picked radishes - and to enable her to do so without guilt, or sympathy for the grannies of the "white 'uns", she enlists the services of Il-soon (another mental patient who, as well as being a kleptomaniac, is convinced that he is vanishing into a dot) to steal her sympathy from her. Il-soon gradually falls in love with Young-goon who, still not eating, is becoming gravely ill and takes it upon himself to convince her to eat.


A large part of "I'm A Cyborg" is shown from Young-goon's point of view with scenes of events as she believes them to be giving the film a deeply surreal, dreamlike quality. An optimistic film such as this, with a huge fantasy element, lives or dies by the warmth it exudes - especially considering the amount of violence present in the killing of the "white 'uns" - and the repeated use of a storybook theme voiced over by the broadcast from Young goon's radio touches viewers' nostalgic bone, bringing subconscious memories of bedtime stories and comfort. The use of bright primary colours throughout adds a cosy, almost childlike, glow to proceedings (if the term "cosy" can ever be used with regard to a mental institution) and whether viewers realise it or not they are constantly being assured that everything will be OK in the end. Of course the likeability of the characters is of major importance as well, and the feeling that each is trying to find happiness within their madness, combined with top notch performances by the cast, ensures that we warm (there's that word again) to each and every one of them. Park Chan-wook has also helped matters by giving each of the characters (and there are a lot of characters) a comprehensive back story and though this adds complexity to the overall plot it never bogs down the story or feels laboured.

Lim Soo-jung gives an impassioned performance as Young-goon expertly showing both her character's naivety, with regard to reality, and her heartfelt, unshakeable belief that what she imagines is true. Fans of South Korean films will recognise her name from "A Tale Of Two Sisters" and "...ing" but could be forgiven for not realising that this is the same actress at first, the change in her appearance from wearing a badly cut wig, ill-fitting dentures and having dyed eyebrows making her almost unrecognisable. Her portrayal here is yet more evidence, if more were needed, that she is one of the shining lights in South Korean cinema. The part of Il-soon is played by Rain (a well known singer in South Korea) so well that it's difficult to believe that this is one of his first professional acting roles and even though the use of his singing talents in the yodeling section of the film blatantly stems from his fame as a singer, the overall result still works well within the story. The acting of the multitude of other cast members is well above par but I'd be here all week if I was to discuss each separately, so let's just leave it at that.

"I'm A Cyborg" is a sweet, uplifting movie and though there are parts of it which feel similar to elements from the Vengeance trilogy (for example the mental hospital scenes in "I'm A Cyborg" are very reminiscent of the prison segments in "Sympathy For Lady Vengeance") viewers should be aware that this film has a totally different mission statement to any of Chan-wook's previous works. Comparisons to his other films are inevitable but ultimately risk doing "I'm A Cyborg" more harm than good as expectations of "more of the same" are likely to result in disappointment. If viewed as a separate entity in its own right "I'm A Cyborg" shows itself to be a beautifully realised story of love, belief and acceptance.

Who's to say that our perception of reality is right while someone else's is wrong? With "I'm A Cyborg" Park Chan-wook implies that the right or wrong of the situation doesn't really matter - what's important is finding contentment in our beliefs and surrounding ourselves with people who accept us for who we are, dentures and all.

A film to warm the cockles of your heart. Now, where did I put those picked radishes?

Cast (Actor... Character):

Lim Soo-jung... Cha Young-goon

Rain... Park Il-soon

Choi Hie-jin... Choi Seul-gi

Kim Byeong-ok... Judge

Lee Yong-nyeo... Young-goon's mother


The DVD edition reviewed here is the UK (Region 2) Tartan Video Release which consists of a single disc DVD package. The film itself is provided as an anamorphic transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and thankfully the numerous bold images within the movie, which feature lots of bright, primary colours, are very well-rendered. Much of the film takes place in the brightly lit fluorescent environment of the mental institution, but the few darker scenes there are feature pleasing shadow detail and black levels are above average. There are no image artifacts or ghosting present and the picture remains consistently sharp throughout. The original Korean language soundtrack is provided in Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 and both positively sing with clarity. Excellent subtitles are provided throughout the main feature and all of the extras.

DVD Extras:

First up is an exclusive interview with director Park Chan-wook, filmed at London's Barbican Centre. The interview is conducted in Korean with a translator communicating the moderator's questions to the director, which means that the hour-long runtime is actually slightly misleading. That said, it's still a pretty decent length for an interview, and if you can get past the slightly odd set-up, Park reveals some interesting information. In addition to answering questions from the moderator, Park also fields some from the audience, which is a nice touch.
A 'Making of' documentary comes next - following a similar path to that of the in-depth Oldboy documentary found in the Vengeance Trilogy boxed set. By this I mean that we're shown the cast and crew hard at work on the set in a documentary fashion, rather than lots of talking heads interviews complete with voice-over (as is customary in most Hollywood promotional featurettes). Unfortunately the documentary is nowhere near as comprehensive as the one featured in the aforementioned boxed set, but it does provide some insight into the creative process.
A music video for Rain's 'With U' follows the ‘Making of’ which is, let’s be honest, cheesy Korean pop.
The film's theatrical and teaser trailers round off the extras package.

DVD Details:

• Director: Park Chan-wook
• Format: PAL, Anamorphic, Widescreen, Subtitled
• Language Korean
• Subtitles English
• Region: Region 2
• Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
• Number of discs: 1
• Classification: 15
• Studio: Tartan Video
• Run Time: 105 minutes


All images © Tartan Video
Review © P. Quinn