Mago (2002)

Rating: B-

Dir: Hyun-Il Kang
Star: Ga Eh, Yoo-Jin Kwon, Do-Yun Kim, Soo-Yun Kim

“Long ago when the Earth first born, on a happy land Mago, Han-Woong, an Adam, mated with the Mother of Earth, Mago, the woman transformed from the 12 spirits, and Men were born. A day came when someone ate the forbidden fruit filled Men with greed and being controlled under desires, Mago then gradually turned from a paradise into a desert. Not only everyone was leaving, the greed of Men had also hurt the innocent spirits and revenge was taken. Years later, the Han-Woong who had gone through metempsychosis realized from astrology and dreams that Mago was his own mother, and all the sufferings are originated from him…” — HK DVD box.

Well, glad that’s cleared up… And the most amazing thing is, the film makes even less sense. It seems to be based on a Korean creation myth, but the end result falls somewhere between Koyaanisqatsi, performance art, and a 50’s nudie film, with many – 825, to be precise – artistically positioned naked bodies frolicking in fields, streams and doing everything short of playing volleyball. This was back in a golden era before humanity screwed things up: now, the Korean version of Adam has forgotten his origins, and has to be shown them. Repeatedly. In lengthy flashback. The spirits of Wind + Rain are equally lost, and now sit in a bar, drinking heavily. No, really!

While there is certainly some striking imagery, and the abattoir footage is particularly hard to watch, a certain double-standard seems to be in effect, since the film starts with what looks like actual frogs being run over by tanks. [The film that could only be made in Korea – where amphibians are cheap…] I also liked the spirits taking revenge on those who’d corrupted the planet, in show-trials that reminded me of The Wall. Generally, however, it’s about as subtle as a brick to the head, and nowhere near as effective. Cynical viewers like me will probably find it all highly amusing, rather than the aimed-for poignancy, and the grade below is entirely based on this aspect.