탑Directed by Hong Sang-soo
Cast: Kwon Hae-hyo, Lee Hye-young
Official Selection, 2022 Toronto International Film Festival
It’s easy to mistake dreams for nightmares in Hong Sang-soo’s films. Probably because they look and sound so alike. But in WALK UP, one of Hong’s most subtly devastating films, there’s a sense of foreboding entrapment that is evident from the very moment we hear the electronic chime of a locking door.
Respected filmmaker Byung-soo (Kwon Hae-hyo) enters a four-story building with his estranged daughter to visit the owner, an old friend (or old flame) named Ms. Kim (Lee Hye-young). Their reasoning for this pilgrimage is as cryptic as the film’s elliptical structure, but the ensuing conversations suggest that new beginnings are afoot. If only Hong’s camera didn’t drift over to the millennial progeny curiously looking over the edge of the rooftop penthouse.
What follows is a series of vignettes that jump through time as effortlessly as Hong’s characters down shots of soju, or in the case of these characters, glasses of wine. As Byung-soo’s once free-wheeling life becomes more and more connected to the building’s cramped spaces and inhabitants, one gets the sense that this domicile is gradually transforming into a prison. Whether it’s one of his own making or a symbol of fate is an altogether different question. Hong is more interested in the sharp shades of light bouncing off the glass bars.
—Glenn Heath Jr.