Berlin Film Review: ‘Human, Space, Time and Human’

Hard to tell if misanthropy or misogyny wins the day in button-pushing auteur Kim Ki-Duk's dim-witted, deeply unpleasant religious allegory.

Kim Ki-duk
Mina Fujii, Jang Keun-suk, Ahn Sung-ki, Lee Sung-jae, Ryoo Seung-bum, Sung Ki-youn, Joe Odagiri. (Korean, Japanese dialogue)

2 hours 1 minute

Even a stopped clock shows the right time occasionally, and even the most off-putting films can hit on the odd line that syncs up with one’s experience while suffering quietly in the dark. In the case of Kim Ki-Duk’s unconscionable “Human, Time, Space and Human,” just such a moment is sneeringly delivered by the most cartoonishly repellent of the film’s many cardboard villains, a vaguely defined politician who cackles, “There is no God!” at the rough midpoint of this interminable, grimy two hours.

Imagine Darren Aronofsky’s terrific, basalt-hearted “Mother!” shorn of any wit or style, and repurposed away from phantasmagorical cautionary horror into something more like a manifesto. This garbled, self-important, deadeningly repetitive hodgepodge of doltish religious allegory has just one coherent message — and to be fair, it rings clear as a bell: Violent misogyny is cosmically justifiable, and so fundamentally baked-in to human nature that we might as well just get on with it.

Half an hour in and the only two women in the ensemble who are not sex workers have both been gang-raped by at least five different men. One of the women, played with damp-eyed, martyred passivity by Mina Fujii, is a newlywed on the grimmest imaginable honeymoon: a “cruise” aboard a rusty World War II-era battleship on which the one habitable cabin has been commandeered by a venal senator (Lee Sung-jae) and his gormless milquetoast son (Jang Keun-suk). All the other holidaymakers are gangsters (led by a live-wire Ryoo Seung-bum), prostitutes, gamblers, or roving packs of leering, sexually aggressive young men. Except there is one mysterious, mute older man (Ahn Sung-ki) who, near-uniquely, doesn’t rape anyone. He just peers in through the cabin windows to watch.

Suddenly, we’re in Act Two, titled “Space” and the Good Ship Rape-a-Lot is floating inexplicably among the clouds. Or is it that the sea below has disappeared, as people keep shouting? It’s not clear, but the point is, they’re supernaturally stranded with limited supplies so it can only be a matter of time before things get even nastier. Oh, and the newly widowed newlywed is now pregnant, which lets Kim piously work in a staggeringly condescending pro-life angle.

Let’s be very clear, lest these descriptions emit the irresistible pheromone musk of provocation: “Human, Space, Time and Human” is not just some snowflake-melting crusade across the high seas of illiberal Bad Takes and crummy hyper-conservative philosophies. It is also a stupefying bore, a litany of interchangeable standoffs, in which undifferentiated characters end up stabbing, raping, and/or eating one another without the faintest spark of visual élan. The insult atop the injury is the drabness of the indifferent craft, and the way Kim’s script redundantly belabors every one of its asinine themes, like it was written on a particularly sexist, fundamentalist Speak & Spell.

The controversial Korean auteur (responsible for such provocations as “Moebius” “Pieta,” and “Stop”) was recently embroiled in abuse allegations back home. Now that we’ve seen his thematically and cinematically dubious movie, the decision to invite him to a Berlinale that vociferously allies itself with the #MeToo movement seems even more questionable. What kind of debate can be served by the inclusion of such dreary, ugly nonsense? Even the old chestnut about the separation of the art from the artist cracks apart when there’s so little discernible artistry involved, and when even the most diehard “separatist” would be strongly advised to pick a less repellent hill to die on.

Berlin Film Review: 'Human, Space, Time and Human'

Reviewed at Cinemaxx, Berlin, Feb. 8, 2018. (In Berlin Film Festival — Panorama.) Running Time: 121 MIN. (Original Title: "Inkan, gongkan, sikan grigo inkan")

Production: (Korea) A Kim Ki-duk Film production. (International sales: Finecut, Seoul.) Producer: Kim Dong-hoo. Executive producer: Kim Ki-duk.

Crew: Director, writer: Kim Ki-duk. Camera (color): Lee Jeong-in. Editor: Kim Ki-duk. Music: Park In-young.

With: Mina Fujii, Jang Keun-suk, Ahn Sung-ki, Lee Sung-jae, Ryoo Seung-bum, Sung Ki-youn, Joe Odagiri. (Korean, Japanese dialogue)

More Film

  • 'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in

    'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in Hospital After Stabbing

    Hugely popular Hong Kong actor, Simon Yam was stabbed while on stage Saturday at a presentation in Zhongshan, Guangdong province in southern China. He is in hospital recovering. The incident happened at the opening of a branch of the Beijing Easyhome building materials company, where Yam was a guest. A man was seen rushing on [...]

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolosnaro attends the

    Bolsonaro Threatens Brazil’s Central Film Fund with Censorship or Closure

    In typical shoot-from-the-hip remarks, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has declared that Ancine, Brazil’s powerful state-backed federal film agency, should accept “filters”or face closure. “If it can’t have a filter, we’ll close Ancine, or privatize it,” Bolsonaro added, attacking Ancine, which plows some $300 million a year into Brazil’s film and TV industries, for supporting [...]


    Director Sara Gouveia on ‘Looking At Resilience Through Art’

    DURBAN–The Mapiko dance of Mozambique’s indigenous Makonde people was long used as a tool for social commentary. But during the colonial era it became an act of political resistance, prompting the Portuguese to stamp it out during Mozambique’s 10-year war for independence. Decades later, the art has been revived as a celebration of freedom. For [...]

  • Don Edkins

    Documentary Filmmaker Don Edkins on ‘Creating an African Voice’ 

    DURBAN–For the 10th Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, a new strand was created to look at the unique challenges and opportunities facing documentary filmmakers in Africa. The two-day program, Durban Does Docs, offers a series of conversations, seminars and workshops with an intensive focus on the aesthetics, funding, distribution [...]

  • A Faithful Man

    Film Review: 'A Faithful Man'

    French actor Louis Garrel has been married twice, first to Iranian talent Golshifteh Farahani, and now to model-cum-actress Laetitia Casta. He has also directed two features, the first a free-wheeling love-triangle comedy called “Two Friends” in which Garrel plays the cad who comes between his best friend and the object of his obsession (played by [...]

  • LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With

    LGBTQ Film Festival Outfest Opens With Documentary About Gay Porn Shops Circus of Books

    Granted, the red carpet at the opening night of Outfest in DTLA may not have been the most star-studded but it was without a doubt the most diverse, inclusive and, yes, fabulous. “I’ve never been here before,” admitted “RuPaul’s Drag Race” vet Trixie Mattel, who stars in the documentary “Moving Parts.” “It’s supposed to be [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Russ Tamblyn's Career Had Legs After Childhood

    With an acting career that spans work for Cecil B. DeMille and Joseph Losey to Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch, Russ Tamblyn’s creativity and longevity is proof that there’s life after child stardom. In Tamblyn’s case, there’s also been a bounty of juicy film and TV roles long after his legendary legs no longer kicked [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content