May 21, 2006
This afternoon Jenn and I were able to sneak out and catch a screening of In Between Days at BAM by director So Yong Kim. From the reviews I had expected a film delving deep into Korean-American culture but I think the reviewers didn't really get it... it wasn't a film about immigrants— it was a film about teenagers... The cultural notes helped define the characters but were ultimately peripheral. Like most good films about teenagers it is about teenagers who are in love, who can't say what they feel, and who keep hurting each other. It’s a quiet story told mainly in close-up picking up small and telling glances where the spaces between words are more important than the words themselves. The film is directed with a sure hand and the director managed to coax utterly realistic and emotionally hard-hitting performances from a cast of untrained but talented actors.
My wife missed the lack of establishing shots or wide shots and said the movie sometimes felt claustrophobic. She was also sometimes confused as to where she was in the story, this is a criticism she often has of female directors who she notes always seem to go for the gut with lots of close-ups. I was only slightly bothered by this although it’s a fair criticism. Most people have been conditioned to read films in a certain way... They need breathing room. This film would often track directly from one moment to another hours or days later without any of the standard transitions... I read this as poetic mindscreen... This is the way we remember things: Someone breaks up with you. That person calls. You are eating together. In your memory the moments run together without any in-between bits. Onscreen the result has an emotional intensity to it. The only breaks in the movie were sequences I read as dream sequences.... Voiced-over letters to an absent father read or whispered by the main character Aimie over grainy shots of empty landscapes. I thought this was lovely. Worked for me.
The film was shot on digital often with little light and it looked amazing-beautifully bleak. HD opens up realms almost impossible to shoot on film and especially with such a small crew. The sound design was also flawless with ambient noise calibrated to precisely play against the character’s emotions. The director spoke afterward and noted the crew size was often limited by the number of people who could fit in a single car—6. The crew was sleeping in the apartment being used as a set. The girl's room in the movie was the room she was sleeping in. Morning shots were morning shots and so on. Sort of a dogma film without the dogma. As someone who worked on movies where the crews generally numbered in the 100’s with endless layers of bureaucracy, personal filmmaking this with this level of finish and style is inspiring.
I don’t believe In Between Days has distribution yet, but by all rights it should. Look for it at festivals and later on DVD.