Korean Writer/Director Chang-Dong Lee's 2002 film "Oasis" is a film of such power, grace and beauty that it leaves me speechless with its powerful portrayal of two outcast Koreans. One, a young man with multiple incarcerations and nowhere to belong, is wondrously portrayed by Sol Kyung-Gu, while the other performance is, in my estimation, perhaps the finest performance anywhere of 2002. So-ri Moon portrays a young lady with cerebral palsy who is basically abandoned by her family and left to fend for herself much of the time, except when they can manipulate the system for her subsidized apartment.
Moon's portrayal is so completely absorbing that it is impossible to not draw comparison to Daniel Day-Lewis in "My Left Foot." It is, without a doubt, one of the best portrayals of an adult with a disability in cinema today. Moon captures the physicalization of her character so completely, so accurately that it is often painful and tiring to watch her.
This, in some ways, is a "stick with it film." The first few minutes are quite challenging to watch as the audience is forced to adjust to the constant spastic behavior, the difficult speech and the aberrant behavior of her soon to be beau.
Without a doubt, feminists and disability advocates will cringe early on as the young woman is faced with a near rape by the man who grows to care about her, accept her and ultimately love her beyond what most would ever recognize as love.
Watching the scene where he begins to assault her, then suddenly and rather horrifyingly recognizes his behavior is one of the most painful scenes I've ever seen in a film. The pain of both perpetrator and victim is pushed to the forefront and, in essence, becomes one.
As the two become closer, the film deals powerfully with the taboos of society...the alleged impossibility of loving a person with a disability...of being sexual with a person with a disability.
It is horrifying to watch the young woman's family...who had been so negligent and so abusive to her suddenly "care" about her now that she was being loved for the very first time AND able to love freely for the very first time.
The filmmaker made so many wise choices here...including the inter-mixing of scenes of Moon fantasizing about having a normal body and doing normal things and enjoying a normal day. These fantasies gave us a glimpse of Moon without disabilities...without a twitch or spasm or speech difficulty. While this may sound a tad judgmental, this "break" allows the audience to breathe and to fully appreciate the challenges that the character faces. Both sides are presented.
In many ways, this is such a sad film...because there is so much truth within it. One would like to think these truths only exist in Korean society but they ring true nearly everywhere.
The film is reminiscent of "The Waterdance" in that it doesn't present a "Hallmark" ending...yet it remains hopeful. Every aspect of this production is outstanding from the performances to the cinematography to the score to the direction. "Oasis" is, indeed, a film of power and beauty and grace and wisdom. It is, in my eyes, a "must see" foreign film.
The Independent Critic is proud to support Indy-based Heartland Film by committing to the 50/50 x 2020 Pledge - By the end of the year 2020, The Independent Critic will achieve gender parity in its reviews of both shorts and feature films. Furthermore, The Independent Critic also pledges support for the Ruderman Family Foundation's call for authentic representation of people with disabilities in film and actively commits to leverage its journalistic influence to effect genuine change in the film industry by calling for and actively promoting authentic and inclusive casting and hiring of people with disabilities.