The Bow

2005 [KOREAN]

Drama / Romance

IMDb Rating 7.1 10 10416

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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by horia-cristescu 10 / 10

The bow - a spiritual metaphor

This movie is a metaphor for the life of a person seeking spiritual liberation, meditating in retreat, and finally overcoming his ego and uniting his soul with God (or his supreme self, Atman).

The old man is the ego. The girl is the soul. The ocean is the world. The boat is the physical body. The guests that come fishing are the thoughts. The bow is the consciousness. The young man is the supreme Self, Atman.

The act of shooting the arrow from the bow is the act of meditation, an act where the consciousness is perfected, united and becomes an unstoppable power.

The dual functions of the bow - as a weapon that has an overwhelming power yet it is also an instrument of art and beauty - represent the two aspects of the consciousness - Cit and Ananda, Cit = consciousness (arrow) and Ananda = beatitude (music).

The way the old man was protecting the girl is the fight of the mind to keep the soul pure and intact. The visitors (impure thoughts) were attempting to spoil the purity of his soul while he was protecting it with the bow (his focused consciousness, or could be by a state of meditation, because in a meditation the mind becomes as focused as the arrow shot from a bow).

The fortunetelling is a meditation where the soul is providing answers to mind. The answers first appear in the soul, in a state of meditation (the shooting of the bow). Then the soul (the girl) shows the mind the answer.

The moment when the girl was rejecting the old man's hand at night is the moment when the ego is alone, separate from his soul, in a dark night of suffering that is necessary for it to understand his mistakes.

The old man's attempt to stop the girl leaving by sacrificing his life is the sacrifice of the ego that is necessary for the soul to become free. Only after the ego completely sacrifices itself, can the soul become free to discover the supreme self, Atman.

The death of the old man was the death of the dual mind and ego. The girl's orgasm is the ecstatic expansion of the soul and that marks the moment of supreme Liberation. The arrow plays the role of the consciousness that penetrates the soul and makes it expand with infinite joy into a state of union with the supreme Self - represented here by the young boy who was holding the girl.

The sinking of the boat represents the death of the physical body. The girl leaving together with the boy represents the life after the supreme Liberation, where the soul is together with the supreme Self (or with God).

Reviewed by vajrayogini 10 / 10

The young girl symbolizes the human Soul, the old man - the Spirit

In "The Bow" Kim Ki-Duk interprets the human state as life in a boat (the physical body) where the Spirit (old man) and the Soul (young girl) live together. The intellect (the bow) is the only tool the human being can use to connect the Spirit and the Soul. The arrow and the bow is old method of meditation and a way to re-connect the Soul and the Spirit. The bow (the Mind) can be used for protection, to play, to predict the future.... in fact it is the only instrument (weapon) human being has. When the old man plays music with the bow - this represents the internal music of the human body only the Soul can hear and understand.

In the beginning of the human life the primordial life energy is dichotomized in male and female energy (regardless gender in every human being). Christians call the male energy "Spirit", and the female "Soul". Synonyms: yang/yin, Purusha/Prakriti, Siva/Shakti, Osiris/Isis, etc. Those two kinds of life energy are absolutely real and everyone could know them by his/her own experience. The Spirit is old, immovable, conservative, caring and the Soul is always young, curious, dynamic, playful. Usually in common people the Soul is capricious and ignorant and she craves for external pleasures and the whole life energy of the body is used to know mundane things (eating, having sex, watching TV, voting, etc.)- this way no energy is left for the Spirit to be strong. The Spirit loves the Soul and He can't refuse her anything. If the Spirit is strong He guards the Soul, he plays with her, he nourishes her until She is ready for the hierogamy (alchemical marriage). In order to achieve hierogamy the Soul must be virgin meaning that she MUST love only the Spirit, and NOT to crave for mundane things. If the Soul is more interested to know the music from outwards world (symbolized by the Walkman)the Spirit will leave her (the old man dived into the water) and the body will die like the body of common mortal person (the boat sinks). The Spirit and the Soul are connected with a tiny thread (symbolized by the rope). When the Soul prefers to leave the Spirit in order to enjoy the mundane things (to know good and evil) the Spirit feels deep pain and He is wishing to kill Himself. If the Soul is willing to return, the Spirit is the happiest ever.

I believe in the end of "The Bow" Kim Ki-Duk tells us the sad story when the alchemical marriage is inhibited - the Spirit leaves the body (the boat) and the Soul descends into the mundane (she stays with the young boy).

Reviewed by sain11 7 / 10

Old School Kim Ki-Duk

I must confess I am a huge Kim Ki-Duk fan, and have loved every one of his films. In my opinion Ki-Duk has directed 4 absolute masterpieces of modern cinema, Bad Guy, 3 Iron, The Isle, and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring. Each of these films has gone some way to changing the shape, scope, style or accepted boundaries of modern cinema.

The Bow, however does not go to these lengths, but instead falls into the category of Ki-Duk's more eclectic and arguably more mainstream works like the Birdcage Inn or Samaria. This is by no means a bad thing as these are also great films in their own right.

Much like 3 Iron, the Bow has very little dialog, and much of the emotion is conveyed solely by glances, gestures or actions. This makes the film both more and less commercially acceptable to western audiences.

The Bow has re-confirmed Kim Ki-Duk as a modern cinematic maverick, an uncompromisingly original and visionary director.

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