Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Camel(s)

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

CAMEL(S)

6/10

Nakta (dul) : South Korea 2001 : Ki-Yong Park : 92 mins

A fortysomething man (Lee Dae-Yeon) collects a fortysomething woman (Park Myung-Shin) from Seoul railway station in his car. Theyre both married. They don’t know each other very well she works at the pharmacy where he collects his prescriptions. They drive to a seaside resort, where they have sex in their hotel room. Next day, they drive back to Seoul.

Thats it. So little happens in Camel(s) that the viewer must pay close attention to every detail though the couples conversation is ostensibly as banal as the dcor of the hotel room. Using black and white digital video, Park observing the pair with long takes that will probably test the patience of even the most adventurous arthouse audience. Though all the dialogue is improvised, there’s nothing accidental here everything is careful, deliberate, steady in its remorseless neutrality, though Park does break up his action with a couple of jarringly effective, briefer shots, including an enigmatic shot of the couple standing on steps that lead down to the water.

It should go without saying that the title is never explained, or even referred to, although towards the end there is a reference to the humps in the road that the mans car has to negotiate. The director has said, in interview, he chose the title because Camels are said to be the only mammals that can survive in harsh desert conditions, and I think only humans can survive the complicated modern daily lide. The image of camels strolling absent-mindedly through the endless desert was the key image I thought of when making this film.

Fair enough but, like almost everything in the film, all of this is a matter of very restrained inference.

Many will, undoubtedly, reject Camel(s) as meaningless, infuriating, boring, self-indulgent and pretentious the film is unashamedly closer to conceptual art than conventional cinema, and the concept is, perhaps, more intriguing than the execution. But those able and willing to adjust to Parks rhythms might possibly find this a rewarding hour and a half or, at the very least, a refreshing change of pace.

10th March, 2002
(seen 10th February, Cinemaxx Berlin Berlin Film Festival)

by Neil Young