The Isle(2000): Hooked to One Another

Cover of "The Isle"

Cover of The Isle

The Isle (2000) is an off-beat Korean film  {with English subtitles} by Kim-Ki-Duk. It is a story of two disturbed individuals trying to forge a romantic relationship while saving and destroying each other.

Disclaimer: The story of the entire film is presented below along with the ending.

A verbally-challenged woman Hee-jin {Seo Jeong} operates a bunch of floating rooms in an isolated lake where men party, do fishing, and engage with call-girls, far from the prying eyes of the public and police. Hee-jin arranges for these girls and even takes up such activities personally, apart from selling fish bait to the occupants. However, in one of the floating rooms is a reclusive man  Hyun-shik {Kim Yu-seok} who spends time making metal-wire toys and watching other men indulge themselves. The cruelty of the men is on open display — one of them taunts the woman for not speaking and throws the money owed to her in the water after his friend sleeps with her. Upset at this treatment the woman assaults the man from under the water. Juxtaposed with this roughness is the shyness of  Hyuk-shik who doesn’t bother Hee-jin and even gifts her a toy. One night, he awakens from his nightmare in which he sees/remembers a dead naked young woman. In depression, Hyun-shik tries to shoot himself but the Hee Jin secretly sabotages his  plan and makes him lose his gun.

She tries to convey her attraction towards Hyun-shik but he makes a rough, callous, overtly sexually agressive advance one night and Hee-jin fights him and leaves. A sombre Hyun-shik gets a call-girl to visit him though only for conversation. Touched by his softness, the call-girl starts to develop feelings for him even as her manager views the situation unfavorably.  The girl visits him on her off-day and then starts developing a relationship with him.

Meanwhile, Hee-jin begins to feel jealous and spies Hyun-shik having sex with the girl. Soon the police arrive at the lake with a list of fugitives and  Hyun-shik attempts suicide out of fear of getting caught, by swallowing fish hooks. Hee Jin hides him from the cops and then saves his life. While comforting him, she has sex with him. However, she gets angry when the girl comes to visit Hyun-shik. Hee Jin assaults the girl and ties her up, and the girl drowns in the lake while trying to break free. The girl’s manager suspects Hyun-shik in the disappearance and they both fight.  This fight accidentally leads to the manager falling into the lake and drowning. The deaths strain the relationship between Hyun-shik and Hee-jin. He decides to escape but he almost drowns in his first attempt and the woman is the one who saves him. When he is making his second attempt Hee-jin attempts suicide and he gives up the plan. 

For a while it appears that that Hyuk-shik and Hee-jin have finally created a long-lasting relationship. But in a twist in the tale, a customer loses his expensive watch when it falls in the lake. The divers called to retrieve the watch discover the bodies. The couple then do a runner. The end of the movie appears to convey that Hee-jin has committed suicide and Hyuk-shik is once again living quietly, hidden from the eyes of the world.


Rating: Lot of cruelty towards animals depicted. Contains nudity and graphic scenes of self-mutilation.  One feels very uneasy while watching the movie. Specifically meant for people who are curious about the works of Kim-Ki-Duk, the acting of Seo Jeong and Kim Yu-seok and/or wants to see the cinematography of the flick. Definitely not meant for for entertainment or for a romantic date .

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