Deer Flower Film Review (Sa-sum Kkot)

   Being ill as a child is an experience like no other. Whilst we're of an age in which we're still trying to make sense of the world around us, little more than a bout of flu can cause our brains to wander off into the most bizarre places - as we toss and turn at night, fever dreams can overwhelm us. And, nearly as upsetting as being poorly, who can forget the foul and distressing taste of the medicine which was supposed to make us feel better?

   Deer Flower (사슴꽃), the 7 minute-long short by Korean director Kangmin Kim , is a film which transports us back to these peculiar memories of our youth and exacerbates them immeasurably - as much as we may have disliked sipping Calpol from a spoon, these experiences are nothing compared to the visceral, nightmarish terrors suffered from the film's lead character, the schoolboy Dujung.

   Boasting extraordinary 3D-printed stop motion animation, Kim has created an elaborate world of distinctive and enchanting visuals. Over the course of Deer Flower, in which Dujung is driven to a deer farm to sample some rather unusual medicine, we enter a hallucinogenic plane - mosquitos threaten to pierce Dujung's skin as the high notes of woodwind pierce our eardrums; a deer with a sawn-off antler stares through the screen as we drown in the black pools of his hostile eyes. Dull percussive thuds drive the film forward and we find ourselves immersed in a whimsical body horror replete with pools of blood; our protagonist even finds the time, however, for languorous hugs with anthropomorphic animals too.

   Whilst many practices relating to traditional Asian medicine may appear alien or peculiar to us watching through Western eyes, there is a universality in the experience Kim presents to us on screen. Certainly, I can't imagine a more stomach-churning medicine than the 약 which Dujung consumes, but each of us possess childhood memories like these which teeter on the edges of fantasy and trauma. Very few of us, however, are able to bring these stories back to life with the sheer visual inventiveness of Kangmin Kim.

   Deer Flower is due to screen at the London Korean Film Festival on the 15th of November at the Korean Cultural Centre UK at 7:00 PM.

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