'Doomsday Book' (2012)

by Michael Barrett

11 January 2013

A zombie and a robot walk into a bar.
cover art

Doomsday Book

Director: Yim Pil-Sung, Kim Jee-Woon
Cast: Kim Kang-Woo

USDVD release date: 11 Dec 2012

Today’s entry from far left field is a South Korean anthology film with three near-future stories. Yim Pil-Sung directed the first and third stories, “A Brave New World” and “Happy Birthday”, both of which are bleak comedies. The first story starts out like Contagion, with somebody eating a bad piece of meat, and evolves into a viral-zombie tale. In keeping with many South Korean films, it presents a jaundiced (literally diseased) view of its own culture and the people in it. The absurd disaster in the final story is brought on when a girl orders an eight-ball over the internet. As a mysterious meteor heads for collision with Earth, the girl’s dysfunctional family watches TV ads capitalizing on the disaster.

These facetious apocalypses bracket “The Heavenly Creature” from Kim Jee-Woon (A Tale of Two Sisters, I Saw the Devil), a lyrical and philosophical anecdote about a robot who works in a Buddhist monastery. The monks believe the machine has achieved enlightenment, and this presents a problem for the robot’s corporation. Is it malfunctioning? Should it be destroyed? What does “existence” mean anyway for an enlightened one? This is like a koan, an excuse for dialectics between characters who assert opposing views, something to be puzzled over more than a narrative to be resolved.

Doomsday Book


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