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January 04, 2008

I'm a Cyborg, But that's OK


Saibogujiman Kwenchana
Park Chan-wook - 2006
United Home Entertainment Region 3 DVD

One of the more interesting lists to come out at the end of 2007 was posted at Indiewire of 250 undistributed films. More precisely, these are mostly non-English language films without US distributors. Several of the films are available on DVD, and in some cases can be seen on US players that are not region free. It turns out that I have three of the films on the list and will write about them now that I have unlocked my new DVD player.

I almost saw I'm a Cyborg during my last week in Thailand, except that in Chiang Mai, unlike Bangkok, films from other Asian countries are usually shown in Thai dubbed versions, if they are shown at all. I am not surprised that Park's newest film hasn't been picked up even for DVD distribution. Unlike the "Vengeance" trilogy, I'm a Cyborg is less easy to classify. The ads make the film appear to be a romantic comedy, which it mostly is. There is one scene of violence that deliberately goes from the comic to the grim, and may make too many people think of the Virginia Tech incident, itself supposedly inspired by Park's Oldboy.


The story is about a young woman, Young-goon, who works at a radio factory. Believing herself to be primarily mechanical, she is institutionalized after wiring herself, creating a self-inflicted electric shock. It is there that she meets the other patience, including a young rabbit masked man, Il-sun who believes he can take away other people's character traits with his hand. Young-goon, not only believes herself to be a cyborg, but a killer cyborg with the mission to kill the hospital's staff. One extended scene shows Young-goon with bullets flying out of her fingers, and bullet cartridges falling out of her mouth. Something of nod towards Park's trilogy, before the murderous fantasy takes place Young-goon asks Il-sun to remove her sense of sympathy.

What I'm a Cyborg has in common with Park's other film is the examination of how people define themselves. A recurring motif is Young-goon search to discover the reason for her existence. The more clearly satirical moments are how mechanized work can be, as well as how dependent people are on machines. Park even finds a way to create a verbal and visual joke involving both the animal mouse and computer mouse. While Park uses CGI to convince the audience that Young-goon might actually be a cyborg, he is aided by Lim Su-jeong and her oversized eyes. The Korean pop singer Rain allows himself to look silly with his two licks of hair combed to appear like two modified rabbit ears. Rain will be somewhat better known this summer with a part in this Summer's Speed Racer.

In one interview, Park mentions as one of his literary influences, Philip K. Dick. It would seem that I'm a Cyborg is something of a twist on Blade Runner. Instead of a cyborg who believes he is a man, we have a woman who is convinced she is a cyborg. Which is still OK.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 4, 2008 12:59 AM


This was a very big hit at the Vancouver Film Festival in 2006 and one that I was upset to miss. It's been on my to watch hit list for a while but I think I'm going to have to break down and order the DVD.

Posted by: Marina at January 4, 2008 06:28 PM

I like this film very much. In my first viewing, I felt very confused and couldn’t follow some storylines, but I understood it more in the second viewing. I prefer this film to OLDBOY and SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE.

Posted by: Celinejulie at January 5, 2008 07:23 AM

There's something wonderful about that film poster at the top of your post. This sounds interesting and I'm sure I could find it for rent in Japan Town. Hopefully I'll get the chance to see it in the future.

Posted by: Kimberly at January 6, 2008 04:09 PM

I have just recently seen the above film, I absolutely loved it, it was both touching and tongue in cheek. Visually it managed to ‘take me away’ which few films do.

Posted by: Julia at March 10, 2009 11:58 AM