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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.10.12] Republic of Korea comedy drama

The concept behind Koo Sungzoo's Moksha: The World or I, How Does That Work? is an interesting one but as soon as you read that it's the story of a man who wakes up chained to the ground in the middle of a city park with no idea how he got there or even who he is, it's clear that the movie in question is going to asks some big existential questions. Whether it does so effectively or not depends wholly on the filmmaker and the script.

The unnamed man in Sungzo's movie wakes up confused and angry. He yells into the emptiness in hopes of getting the attention of someone in the far-away apartment buildings. As the anger dissipates, it takes a while to do so, he begins to wonder how he ended up there which then leads to him figuring out that that's not the only thing he doesn't remember: he also can't remember his name though he does remember he has two kids. It's selective memory loss, selective in that it doesn't block out the memories that will cause the most pain. It's as if he's pissed off the universe and it's retaliating by inflicting the most pain, and doing a damned fine job by it.

When people finally start to appear in the park, at one point our protagonist wonders out-loud where all the dog walkers are, he has conversations with them that appear to go no where. The very first person he sees, a random walker, doesn't even stop and the protagonist, completely shocked by the sight of another human, doesn't even ask for help.

It's never clear if the protagonist, played by Jang Sukhyun with great fervour, is dead and stuck in some sort of purgatory or whether he's alive and well and the entire thing is in his mind or even if the people who come to visit him, for the most part they deliberately appear to speak with him, are actually alive or figments of his imagination, but with each new visitor, the man seems calmer and almost accepting of his situation and as time progresses, occasionally far too slowly, details of his past begin to arise and though his reason for being there still isn't clear, we do see what led to his fall from grace.

In the end, Moksha does provide a few answers but they are far less interesting than the act of getting there. Though not all of the exchanges between the chained man and his visitors shed much light on anything, some offer up a few laughs, it's the man's monologues that really work. Sungzoo's script is deceptively simple but along the way, he does take a stab at some big ideas. Moksha isn't as high brow as the set-up suggests and Sukhyun more than keeps the thing afloat through the downbeat moments, delivering an entertaining mostly one man show.

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