The Night I Swam (La Nuit où j’ai nagé / 泳ぎすぎた夜, Damien Manivel & Kohei Igarashi, 2017)

The Night I SwamCinema, at its most innocent, is a place where children can have fantastic adventures while the adults watching them from the other side of the screen worry though somehow or other it always manages to turn out OK. From the anxious whimsy of the The Little Fugitive, to the melancholy dreaminess of Palle all Alone in the World, and on to the anarchy of Home Alone, children in movies are much more resourceful than we give then credit for. The Night I Swam (La Nuit où j’ai nagé / 泳ぎすぎた夜, Oyogisugita Yoru), a Japanese/French co-production co-directed by A Young Poet’s Damien Manivel and Hold Your Breath Like a Lover’s Kohei Igarashi, is testament to this as its central little hero sets off on a perilous journey to show his dad, who has to leave very early for work at the fish market in town, a drawing he made of a fish.

One fateful morning, while it’s still dark outside, a little boy wakes up and hears his father smoking a cigarette in the kitchen before going to work. The boy can’t get back to sleep. He tries to wake his mum but she’s deep asleep so he plays with the family dog, has a game with his toy animals, watches some TV and then draws a picture of a fish before trying to get a little more shuteye before he has to get up for school. The consequence of this is he’s very sleepy when it comes to getting ready in the morning as his mum helps him into the ski pants, jacket, and pretty blue hat that will keep him warm in the thick snow which is currently piled higher than his head on the way out of their home.

The little boy puts the drawing in his backpack and then sets off, but when he reaches the school gates he makes a surprising decision. He turns around, climbs over a fence and escapes! Playing in the snow for a while it seems as if the boy just didn’t fancy a day cooped up indoors but he has a plan and it requires getting on a train into the city…

The little boy’s journey is occasionally perilous. It’s certainly freezing cold out there, surrounded by snow and and ice, and the little tyke is so tired that at one point he just collapses and falls asleep in the snow. Somehow or other he seems to rally himself and continue on his journey even if he sheds some of his tools as he goes including a precious glove which he takes off to peel the oranges he’s brought along for sustenance. Once in the city he makes a dangerous dash across an icy road, wanders around a department store, and spends a while sitting in a food court, observing the busy lives around him like a visitor from a dream. When he gets to the fish market, it’s already closed, the place is eerily empty and deserted, waiting for the next day’s activity to begin.

Disheartened and completely exhausted, the boy starts testing doors on the cars in the carpark before crawling into a open van to keep warm and falls asleep. Luckily, the boy’s story has a happy ending as he meets some nice people who help him get back to his family safe and sound where he finally gets some proper sleep after his long adventure. The film’s most touching moments occur at the end as the boy’s dad hangs up his wet clothes to dry before looking at the drawing which the boy’s sister has pinned on the fridge before falling asleep next to his son, sharing this small amount of time they have together, while the boy’s mother watches TV downstairs with her little girl.

Shot in academy ratio and entirely dialogue free, The Night I Swam has an innocent, dreamlike quality as the little boy wanders through the snow, wide eyed and curious but set on reaching his destination even though he is clearly very tired, not to mention cold. Broken into three chapters with picture book font titles, The Night I Swam is a beautifully elliptical tale filled with whimsy and melancholy as the boy and his father are kept apart by practical concerns but united, perhaps, in dreams.


Currently available to view via Festival Scope (€4) until 19th September.

Original trailer

Moebius (uk-anime.net review)

pXQzqHE - ImgurKim Ki-duk’s latest reviewed at uk-anime.net.


A Moebius strip is a twisted loop with no beginning and no end. No matter where you start your journey, you could pass the same point many times without ever crossing a boundary. It this inexorable and infinite cycle to which Korean auteur and professional cage rattler Kim Ki-duk now turns his unfaltering gaze as the ancient wheel of sex, death and violence trundles on untroubled by our modern day pretences of a more enlightened society. Completely dialogue free, Kim presents a contemporary greek tragedy framed as the blackest kind of satire.

Things are not going well in this quietly suburban, middle class household. It’s not even breakfast time but the father has retreated to his study because the mother is already perched on the stairs, a large refilled glass of red wine in hand and all while the bemused teenage son looks on disinterestedly. This is a normal morning, nothing has changed very recently. Things are about to change though – quite drastically. Finally at the end of her tether and filled with a Medea-like fury the mother decides to put an end to her husband’s philandering days by means of a kitchen knife. She is extremely drunk and half crazed so her husband easily disarms her at which point she comes up with another idea – if she can’t hurt her husband himself, she can cause him pain by proxy and takes her knife to her unsuspecting son’s room. Literally emasculated by his mother, the young son must then face difficult questions regarding the nature of his masculinity, particularly as it appears to others. His father in turn must cope both with the guilt of his own sins being visited on his son as well as that of his own behaviour as a father, husband and finally a man. Never one for easy answers, Kim Ki-duk’s examination of modern day Korean society continues apace but its implications are far more wide reaching.

Though Kim is firmly focussed on his native Korea, the questions he presents are as old as the hills and common to almost every culture (at least to those that also male dominated). It’s not the first Korean film where the successful father is having an affair with a girl young enough to be his daughter, or the first where the wife’s humiliation spills over into violence but the nature of her revenge is so specific, and perhaps bizarre, that it brings its own particular line of discourse. The first question is one of traditional masculinity and how that is defined between men. The son seems to feel emasculated and looks for different ways to explore his manhood but is at pains that no one should discover the nature of his injury. Though he approaches the woman who had been his father’s mistress (played by the same actress who plays the mother), he backs off when she reaches for his genitals. Later, he makes an attempt to step in when she’s being hassled by a gang of dangerous looking youths but quickly subjugates himself to them and, when they do actually gang rape her, pretends to join in rather than stand up to them or have them think he is less than a man.

The fact the object of his adolescent lust is both his father’s mistress and looks eerily like a younger version of his mother is another ancient problem where, as they say, everyman kills his father and beds his mother. The father’s first reaction to his son’s predicament is to look for ways someone without a penis might experience orgasm – the answer he comes up with also speaks volumes and points to another of Kim’s ideas of circularity, that pain and pleasure aren’t so much linear poles but a circular continuum where both can exist equally at the same time as a sort of self feeding vortex. The second idea he has is a penis transplant, and as the boy’s is no longer available he makes the ultimate decision to sacrifice his own source of pleasure in favour of his son’s. Unfortunately, it comes with some sort of homing device which means it only works with the mother (perhaps her ultimate revenge). The relationship between father and son changes again as they become rivals in an incestuous love triangle only now it is the father who has become impotent and the son, literally, the man of the house.

If you think this all sounds a bit ridiculous (is a penis transplant even possible?) you aren’t wrong, and Kim Ki-duk knows too. Odd as it might sound, Moebius is a comedy, even if a macabre one. Sexual violence, incest, penis theft – not traditional comedic ingredients it has to be said but Kim Ki-duk’s very definitely of the it’s better to laugh than cry school of thought and the sheer scale of Kim’s vision gives the entire project the sort of absurd grandiosity that makes it very difficult not to find humour even the bleakest of situations. Kim isn’t proposing any answers here so much as offering a series of (critical) observations of human nature. The world isn’t going to change just as it hasn’t changed since Euripides first started telling stories of people driven to the edge of madness. We’re all walking on a Moebius strip, repeating the cycle endlessly completely unaware that, at some point, we began walking on the other side. Like the best Greek tragedies, Moebius is has a feeling of inevitability driven by the most primal of emotions. Once again Kim proves he’s not afraid to look deep into the dark heart of human nature and, though not for the faint hearted, Moebius is one of his most accomplished films to date.