|I am Trash|
English Title: I Am Trash
Hangul: Na-neun Sseu-re-gi-da
Korean: 나는 쓰레기다
Director: Lee Sang-woo
Writer: Lee Sang-woo
Producer: Pierce Conran
Cinematographer: Kim Min-su
Release Date: September 2014 (International), 12 May 2016 (South Korea)
Runtime: 97 min.
Subtitles: English only (Hardcoded)
Country: South Korea
Kwan Bum-tack as Father
Lee Sang-woo as Sang-woo
Yang Myoung-hoen as Sang-tae
Park Hyung-bin as Sang-goo
Three adult sons have been struggling to achieve some sort of normal routine after their father was sent to prison for the horrific sexual assault of an underage girl. Their lives are thrown into radical disarray when dad finishes his time and returns to the family home. That the victim’s father is awaiting the return outside their door with a knife is certainly of no help to their situation... but it’s not like things are going so well otherwise, with the three sons a virtual compendium of sexual dysfunctions in their own right.
Song-tae, whose urges echo his father's, masturbates to violent porn and is constantly encouraged by Sang-woo to rub one out for the greater good and assuage his savage fantasies. Is this just a Clockwork Orange, without the back and forth, reinforcement or a successful sublimation?
In a manner similar to the later Roh Gyeong-Tae's Beulraekseuton[i] - 블랙스톤 ([i]Black Stone) Gay Sang-goo sexually harasses a subordinate soldier while they are both on leave from the base where they serve. Unfortunately there's a victim payback in Black Stone that's absent in I Am Trash.
Sang-woo works as a street cleaner, taking care of the detritus and trash of the more visible parts of the city while at the same time rubbish piles up in the low rent neighbourhood where he lives. Early on in the film we witness him being attacked by a group of respectable youths out for a bit of fun.
Only a mother could love these boys; but she and her possible leavening influence are nowhere to be found, and where she is or what happened to her are one of the mysteries of the film- although there are several clues scatted through the run.
Significant parts of this film have been taken from life, to find out I suggest you visit some of the links below but watch the film first. It's worthwhile to know that "During her 2012 presidential campaign, [the now deposed] Park Geun-hye highlighted sexual violence as one of the four “social evils” to be addressed by her leadership, asserting that “sex offenders, especially those who assault minors, should be harshly punished, even with the death penalty” (WSJ). The film was shot guerilla fly on the wall style with handheld cameras. I'm usually not a fan of this style of film making but in this case it works.
This is a disturbing film on many levels, almost none of the characters come off well in it, and there's one scene that if it doesn't put you off from eating meat will certainly make you pause. There are some really well observed moments and the plastic strip curtain, decorated with pink hearts, adds a certain ironic frisson.