by Michael Montag
Alone is the kind of film that adheres to a narrative logic that’s all its own. At the outset of the picture a documentarian unwittingly photographs a murder on a distant rooftop. Within moments he himself is seemingly killed. What ensues is a dark trip through the labyrinthine corridors of time and memory. Using a ‘live-die-repeat’ formula to structure his film, the director Park Hong-min explores the dark repercussions of psychological trauma. The film is set in Seoul in a desolate maze of alleyways, corridors, and spiraling staircases. Park compliments the noir iconography with long handheld takes that weave through the maze-like neighborhood. This setting is as much a character as the documentarian, Su-min, who’s ultimately entrapped in an unending nightmare within a nightmare.
The movie is somewhere between a puzzle picture and what I’d call a purgatorial noir. As Su-min drifts through his cluttered neighborhood of mountainous apartments, he encounters and reencounters his girlfriend, mother, and himself in more than one permutation. His backstory is obliquely revealed through conversations that are often confounding. It's a discombobulating experience that, at times, perfectly recreates the fabric of dreams. If you want to watch an expressionist commit psychedelicide, Alone is obligatory viewing, and though it may mystify, once the details surrounding Su-min’s psychic distress are put together, a cohesive, distinct tale begins to emerge.