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Breath [DVD] 
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Death row convict Jang Jin (Chang Chen) attempts to hasten his death sentence by stabbing himself in the neck with a sharpened toothbrush, only to fail miserably, leaving him temporarily mute. The unfortunate incident reaches the national news, catching the attention of housewife Yeon (Park Ji Ah). On the surface, Yeon's life resembles the ideal picture - a good husband (Ha Jung Woo) a stable livelihood. But beneath that shell lies sadness and torment over her husband's extramarital affairs. Jang Jin's story hits close to her heart, leading her to a new path, as she dares to leave her usual life to meet the convict in prison. Ironically, it's inside a cold and dark place where all of life's pleasure and privileges have been stripped away that both Yeon and Jang Jin begin a remarkable healing process. But reality remains stern and cold for the condemned as death penetrates through the iron bars, still demanding for his last breath. Korean with English Subtitles.
About the Actor
Chen Chang (Red Cliff, Blood Brothers, 2046, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Happy Together), Ha Jung-woo (The Chaser, Breath, The Fox Family), Park Ji-a (Spring Summer Autumn Winter and Spring, The Coast Guard)See all Product Description
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The central character is a condemned prisoner who repeatedly attempts suicide, thereby delaying his execution as the authorities have to let him recover so he will be fit for capital punishment.
The heroine is a woman who hears about him on the news and makes a number of surreal visits to him in prison.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The central characters are a suicidal death row inmate and a dissatisfied (and betrayed) housewife. When news of the inmate is televised, the young lady feels drawn to seek out a re-connection with the condemned man. The two had known each other in more innocent times, and visiting her former flame pulls her further away from an adulterous husband. Upon each visit, she sets an elaborate stage with flowers, wall treatments, and music to create an idealized oasis away from reality. The two become more and more intertwined, and yet each much ultimately confront the truth of their situation. The bond they share is alternately tender and creepy and the film uses this incongruity to create an almost hyper-real environment.
This sparse and straightforward film (it is only 84 minutes) doesn't rely on visual pyrotechnics or fancy effects--it moves up close to its human subjects in almost invasive ways. Intensely personal, but also emotionally aloof, "Breath" almost embraces a moral ambiguity. I think that it will affect different viewers in different ways and the narrative is open-ended enough to allow your own conclusion. I know that I've made the film sound bleak and depressing, but it is also infused with an unexpectedly macabre humor. The film is unpredictable and original. It may be a challenge, but it's a trip worth taking. I don't think, ultimately, the film is for everyone--but those that appreciate it, I suspect will really admire its achievement. About 4 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 8/11.
Jang Ji (Chen Chang) is on death row in a Korean prison for the murder of his family. He shares the bleak cell with three other prisoners, one of whom (In-Hyeong Gang) is young and obviously in love with and is very possessive of Jian Ji. Jian Ji attempts suicide and the media focuses on the transfer of the prisoner to the hospital where he barely survives his self-inflicted stab wound to the throat. One woman on the outside, Yeon (Zia - or Ji-a Park) watches the coverage on the media in silence (: she is married to a man (Jung-Woo Ha) who apparently is having an extramarital affair and pays little attention to her, finding Yeon's obsession with the prisoner 's exposure in the media this foolish and repulsive. They have a young daughter who observes the lack of interaction between her parents. Yeon is a sculptor and quietly works at her art, watching the coverage of Jian-Ji's plight. Something in her relates to the prisoner and she begins making trips to the prison where she sets up the visitor room with wall photographs, paintings and flower props that look like Spring. It is in this atmosphere that she meets the handcuffed Jian Ji and there is obvious exchanged compassion between them. She returns to the prison, each time to visit Jian Ji in a room she has transformed to Summer and to Autumn and with each visit she sings a seasonal song of love to him. The relationship becomes physical: of note, in a room behind one way glass a prison official (Ki-duk Kim himself, as though he were directing the romance) observes the trysts. Yeon finds evidence, a broach, of her husband's affair and confronts him: the husband explores the reason Yeon visits the prison and follows her, observing her passion behind the one way mirror. The husband parts with his lover, demanding Yeon do the same, and the last visit to the prison is a Winter scene where Jian-Ji and Yeon consummate their passion. The ending is a surprise to all and sharing that would spoil the effect of the film: the key is in the title.
Ki-Duk Kim weaves so many subliminal aspects into this film, a technique few other directors can match. He explores alienation, contemporary relationships between husbands and wives, prison tensions that result in other kinds of relationships, and again uses the cycle of season changes to mark the steps of his story. His cast is small and incredibly fine. This is a very small film with a very big message. It is a gem. Grady Harp, August 11
This offering from Kim pairs a prisoner on death row who develops a relationship with a female visitor.
Breath is simple yet dexterous in its visual execution. It mixes the non-speaking roles (the protagonist Jin and his cell mates) with the verbal ones (the female lead Yeon and her family).
The prisoners did an admirable job conveying emotions through gestures, body language and facial expressions. The homosexual cell mate of Jin alternates between tenderness, desire, despair, jealousy, protectiveness, possessiveness and murderous hatred for his unrequited efforts.
In stark contrast to the sombre prison scenes are the parts where Yeon visits Jin. The walls are brightly decorated according to the seasons and she does cute cheery songs for him.
One of the things Breath does best is to explore impossible relationships - perhaps an unintended didactic message. You have the husband's fling, the spurned cell mate and Yeon investing so much effort on a condemned convict instead of her own marriage.
The will to live and the will to die is best expressed in the central character. Initially, Jin attempts suicide because there is nothing to live for. However, when told by Yeon's husband that she will not be coming any more, he tries to end his life again.
The day before his execution, Yeon pays a final visit where they make love as sort of a farewell. After climax, she tries to suffocate him. Perhaps, Yeon who herself was dead for five minutes as a child tried to give Jin a taste of dying. Or she could be protesting against him for killing his family. But Jin's will to live was so strong that he pushed her away despite being handcuffed.
As in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... And Spring, the director himself makes an appearance here as a prison guard.
The ending comes as a surprise. It's a masterful cinematic contrast of both happy and sad. What I can reveal here is what Jin's cell mates did to and for him, they did it to save him from a more terrible fate at the gallows. I was simply stunned but glad that it did not leave any unanswered questions. I'll leave you to it.