Kim Hye-mi (director)
18 November 2021 (released)
20 November 2021
Using an animation technique that is as beautiful as it is grotesque, writer and director Kim Hye Mi’s Climbing is the haunting tale of wall climber Choi Se-hyeon (Kim Min Ji) who suffers a bad accident losing an embryo she was never certain she wanted to keep.
As an expert and dedicated climber motherhood would have been problematic though not for her partner Lee Woo-in (Goo Ji-won) who has other more domestic ideas for their future. Pressure at home is matched by pressure at the wall with a bright young star in the making Kim Ah-in (Park Song-yi) pushing for her place seemingly culturing a bias against Choi with the coach (Park Joo-gwang).
Out of the blue a mobile that hasn’t worked since the accident rings and Se-hyeon answers to hear her voice but from a much different situation and universe. This Se-hyeon hasn’t lost her baby but is severely injured confined to a wheelchair and being looked after by Woo-in’s severe mother (Park Song-yi too) who receives calls from him though never letting Se-hyeon speak to him, or he not wanting to speak to her. Gradually they start to come together and their lives entwine in the most macabre of ways.
Animating the characters using deep shading to enhance the muscle sinews and bone structure of the almost skeletal bodies and limbs of the climbers, in contrast to the smoother lines of the pregnant Se-hyeon, is brilliant. There’s a rawness here with the hues contrasting with the visceral scenes of bloody horror, yet highlight the almost balletic skills of the protagonists as they scale the walls reaching to grab the handholds or as they swing to others.
Aside from the animation the curious amalgamation of science fiction, horror (both physical and psychological) along with more domestic matters of trust, families and competitive rivalries hold together very well.
There’s a lot that isn’t quite spelt out like if Se-heyon has been in a coma or if indeed one is a figment of the imagination of the other. These questions don’t detract from understanding or enjoyment and are pretty much par for the course when there’s another universe involved.