Cast: Kim Min-hee, Park Mi-so, Shin Seok-ho
Best Screenplay, 2021 Berlin International Film Festival
Occasionally, a lazy film critic will think they’re being clever and dismiss Hong Sang-soo as a repetitive filmmaker, essentially suggesting that he makes the same film over and over again. While there are certain stylistic overlaps and thematic connections between much of the work by this prolific Korean auteur, each one of his feature films (and there are now 26!) unwraps in its own singular way.
Hong’s 65-minute INTRODUCTION, a sublime black-and-white triptych about praying against all logic for a second chance at love, life, and redemption, is no different. It effortlessly charts the emotional travails of a young couple and their estranged parents over the course of three continent-hopping, booze-filled vignettes. In each, Hong provides a miniature portrait of familial disconnection that is rooted in the restless, dead end conversations of people who’ve been talking around each other for years.
There’s not much urgency to fix these drifting relationships. Like crashing waves, they’re perfect symbols of invisible erosion. INTRODUCTION might not seem substantial at first glance, but it gracefully carries the weight of its forlorn and ever-hopeful characters, constantly trying to push past the restrictive boundaries of formality. But all the flirting and soju and dreams can only bring us to the precipice. What we all need is the cold shock of the ocean to reintroduce us to what’s staring us in the face.
—Glenn Heath Jr.