A Woman After a Killer Butterfly

A Woman After a Killer Butterfly ★★★½

While attempting to catch butterflies, a university student meets a young woman by a river. She offers him a drink, which she says is poisoned, but only after he’s imbibed. To be fair, she also downs the drink – she just doesn't want to slip off the mortal coil alone, which doesn't exactly provide consolation for our hero.

Anyway, she dies but he manages to get help in time and makes a full recovery. Unfortunately, since he was already prone to bouts of depression, the incident causes him to have suicidal thoughts. And he tries to take his own life but is stopped by a crazy-seeming man who barges into his home. This fellow harangues the student, going on about willpower and how it can make a person live forever.

There’s much about the film that is quite comical, some of it intentionally. And it has a very rambling storyline with a decidedly anthropological bent. Specifically, we learn how, in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Mongols spread across the world, directly influencing cultures and physiognomies as we know them today, including those of Korea. And there’s a subplot concerning a resurrected woman and one that features post-mortem decapitations. There's also a butterfly motif that is present throughout, particularly when it comes to the daughter of a professor of archaeology, who our main man ends up working for.

While the film is quite amusing, not always for the right reasons, it’s also rather magical. I appreciated the direction, which consists largely of subtle pans that help reframe certain scenes without resorting to cuts. And the art design is really strong, particularly in scenes that take place in the home of the professor. And it’s during these sequences that the cinematography is especially beautiful.

This is a strange dreamlike, existentialist tale that bears comparison with something like Jigoku, with which it shares quite a bit of DNA. Yep, those Mongols sure did get around.

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