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Movie Review: 2013 AFI Fest: The Fake

By Mike Everleth ⋅ November 10, 2013

Animated characters in a film from South Korea

The Fake, an animated film from South Korea and directed by Yeon Sang-ho, has a very simple, matter-of-fact visual style that delivers a complex story about the nature of faith.

The title, which is also very simple and direct, masks the film’s large soap operatic cast, all of whom reside in a tiny village that is threatened to be flooded by a new dam.

The villagers, grown desperate by their situation, have put all their stock — both spiritually and monetarily — into their charismatic and sincere, to a fault, new pastor. However, the devout man of God is backed by an obvious con man, a man whom, since he carries himself well, the villagers turn a blind eye to, blinded especially by the pastor’s blazing light of Heavenly promise.

The only character with his eyes wide open is Ming-Chul, a most repulsively drawn character. That means literally in the way his craggy facial features give him a striking weather-beaten persona, as well as figuratively in the way no word ever comes out of his mouth that is not completely insulting and abusive.

Ming-Chul is not one of the anti-hero characters who on the surface is unpleasant, but with enough winking nods that lets the audience know he is truly good at heart. No, Ming-Chul is so repulsive from his first scene — in which he steals his own daughter’s college savings to blow in a card game — to his last that the audience is meant to loathe him as much as all the characters in the film do.

Yet, what to do with somebody so grotesque who happens to be the only person telling the truth? Even the pastor, we come to learn, has a dark past that has forced him to become entangled with thieves.

Faith then becomes a cruel weapon with which the characters batter each other, and themselves, with. And by making the one character with no faith, Ming-Chul, so unlikeable, the film forces the audience to question their own notions of faith.