"Excuse me, I guess you like working out... This is black garlic juice, it's really good for health..."
An (unnamed) man sits in a car trying to come up with a concept for a comic book while he waits for a female jogger, who has increasingly caught his eye, to jog past. When she finally appears and takes a break from her jogging nearby, he approaches her (intending to impress her by giving her some bottled black garlic juice), but she pays him no notice whatsoever and before long carries on with her run without having even made eye contact.
However, as she departs, our 'hero' notices that she has dropped her mp3 player and, realising that it gives him the perfect (and possibly one and only) excuse to catch up with her and engage her in conversation at long last, he picks it up and chases after her, but little does he know the catalogue of disasters and violent confrontations he is about to face...
They (whoever "they" are) say that life's a journey, and it almost goes without saying that we are each largely a product of our experiences - our ongoing trials and tribulations subtly changing who we are as individuals over time; our perceptions of current events shaped by those of our past - and we often ultimately find that situations, as well as people, are far from what we initially perceive them to be.
While director Oh In-chun's priority in making independent short film 'Metamorphoses' was, first and foremost, the creation of entertainment, the above ideas and themes are nonetheless evident throughout - all wrapped up within a "careful what you wish for" (or "thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife") cautionary tale.
Metamorphoses begins gently, but, as soon as it becomes clear that even the 'hero' of the film has an ulterior motive for being where he is (which is subsequently shown to also be the case for each and every one of the other main characters), a mirroring of the idea that things and individuals are seldom as they initially appear, is deftly created. In fact, the gentleness with which the early scenes are presented serves to subtly reference this yet further, and before long we come to realise that Metamorphoses itself is not as it first appears either:
For, far from being a innocuous tale of one man's unrequited love for a beautiful, mysterious woman, it is instead a tale of the catalogue of nightmares with which that man is faced, all as a result of his wants and desires outstripping what common sense should have dictated.
Surprising and unpredictable throughout its thirty minute running time, Metamorphoses ultimately reveals a brutal, menacing, graphically violent and gory core, but, all the while, succeeds in being incredibly funny (the humour split pretty evenly between visual and dialogue based laughs - even including a hilariously disparaging reference to Oh In-chun himself by one of the characters), and as the tension within proceedings builds to the point of explosion, that humour allows for not only a perfect twisting of feelings and empathy, but also virtually guarantees that viewers will repeatedly alternate between laughing out loud and covering their eyes, waiting for the metaphorical hammer to fall.
Cinematically, Metamorphoses is incredibly well realised and executed, with numerous specific (and impressive) visual techniques referencing the work of a number of directors - from the likes of Brian De Palma and Johnny To, through to William Friedkin - and while it's clear where these 'homages' originated (more than likely a deliberate move on the part of Oh In-chun), they nonetheless work incredibly well, fitting in with the narrative and overall proceedings perfectly naturally.
The resultant visual imagery also increases the humour of the piece to a large extent, even (or especially) during the gruesomely gory scenes appearing towards the conclusion of the film, and ensures that Metamorphoses is ultimately memorable and well worth re-watching.
The musical score by Clarice E. Ok is equally accomplished and moves seamlessly from orchestral sounds to guitar based rock, as and when the narrative requires.
Finally, the acting present from the entire cast is top notch throughout, and though it's unlikely that any of the actor (or actress) names will be familiar, you can almost be certain that you'll hear of them again in the future.
Initially appearing as a gently humorous story of one man's unrequited love for a beautiful woman, Metamorphoses mirrors its theme of "nothing is as it first appears", to ultimately become a brutal, menacing, bloody, and extremely funny, "careful what you wish for" cautionary tale.
Cast: Song Jae-hee, Kim Myung-hwan, Jung Sung-moon, Seo Sung-min, Noh Gi-ju, Heeju
Directed by: Oh In-chun
Director of Photography: Um Tae-sik
Produced by Shin Sang-ho
Music by: Clarice E. Ok
I would sincerely like to thank director Oh In-chun for providing me with his film and allowing me to review it, as well as for being so open to answering my interview questions. You can read the Hangul Celluloid interview with Oh In-chun by clicking here