out-of-focus scene of a man filming on a beach while another sits in the sandalr

in water

Directed by Hong Sangsoo.
With Shin Seokho, Ha Seongguk, Kim Seungyun.
South Korea, 2023, DCP, color, 61 min.
Korean with English subtitles.
DCP source: Cinema Guild

One of Hong Sangsoo’s most quietly radical films, in water sees the veteran director subtly reimagining his aesthetic even as he continues to simplify his process. Set on Jeju Island, the movie centers on a small film crew, one not unlike Hong’s, led by a young actor (Shin Seokho) who has decided to give up acting and make a short film with two friends, a cameraman (Ha Seongguk) and an actress (Kim Seungyun). Each day, the trio scouts for locations in hopes that the director will find inspiration in the dreamy seaside setting, but instead they mostly end up wandering about or stopping to eat, drink, and chat about their differing artistic impulses. (“It’s for the honor,” the director says about his desire to suddenly take up moviemaking.) Meanwhile, a possible tryst between the actress and cinematographer has the filmmaker frustrated and in his feelings about his own lost love, which he is only able to reconcile when a chance encounter with a stranger and a love song from his past combine into an imaginative spark that will set the course for his project. Similarly drawing on collaborative energy and personal experience, Hong, whose eyesight is said to have worsened in recent years, adopts a softly blurred image to tell this tale of creative inertia and youthful inexpressiveness, pushing a recognizable template to freshly impressionistic ends. Playful and poetic, in water exemplifies Hong’s wily streak and undiminished flair for subverting his own formulas.




Part of film series

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This Is Us. Two Films by Hong Sangsoo