It takes talent to entice an audience without any dialogue. In the case of South Korea’s Kim Ki-Duk, he’s not just good at silence; his oddball artistry depends on it. In 3-Iron, when he tries to cook up a scene in which a businessman is yelling at his wife to obey him, thus alienating her all the more, the effect is shrill and didactic. But when the movie follows the daily routine of Tae-suk (Jae Hee), a young vagabond with the face of a rebel angel, as he breaks into houses and apartments and explores his surroundings like a cat (the closest he comes to vandalism is playfully rejiggering a scale), we’re transported into the gentle mystery of what the kid is up to. In the drifting Buddhist underworld of Kim Ki-Duk, words just get in the way.
3-Iron is like a Raymond Carver story that slowly, inexorably takes on the dimensions of a ghostly fairy tale. During one of his stealth invasions, Tae-suk meets Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon), a sorrowful former model and the aforementioned wife, who is only too happy to ditch her loveless marriage and join him in his ritual of breaking and entering. The two never speak to each other; in Kim’s terms, they have the perfect relationship. Unlike the writer-director’s marvelous Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring, 3-Iron is more of a conceit than a work of substance, yet it leaves you with the airy, funny sensation that the middle-class life these two have left behind is merely a dream.