Published on June 22nd, 2012 | by Padraic Coffey0
Planet of Snail (2012)
Did you hear the one about the Korean documentary centring on a married couple, one of whom is deaf-blind, the other who has a spinal-deformity? Yes, so it is unlikely that Planet of Snail will surpass The Avengers as the highest-grossing film of 2012. That said, those who seek out this esoteric feature should find it a moving, if slight, experience.
For almost all his life, Young-Chan has not had the use of his eyes or ears. His wife Soon-ho, who is also affected by her unusually diminutive height, communicates with Young-Chan through a remarkable system of finger-on-finger tapping. Young-Chan is an aspiring writer, who uses state of the art Braille in order to compose his essays and plays, the latter being particularly noteworthy, given that Young-Chan’s disabilities have prevented him from ever actually seeing a theatrical production.
As director Yi Seung-jun had already chosen a fascinating and unprecedented subject matter before the cameras had begun to roll, it may be remiss to criticise Planet of Snail for lacking a strong narrative thrust. There is no conflict or resolution to be found in its brief running time. The only plot-point hinging on surprise is whether or not Young-Chan will win a writing competition he has entered, and even that is handled in a supremely discreet fashion.
Planet of Snail should be appreciated for what it is, a candid snapshot into lives of which most viewers will have little or no experience. Young-Chan and Soon-ho’s relationship is a dependent but extremely touching one. Whether Soon-ho is assisting Young-Chan exercise or both are collaborating for the seemingly straightforward assignment of changing a ceiling light-bulb, these moments are captivating to watch. Elsewhere in the film we see the pair’s extended family and friends, some of whom cope with the same challenges as Young-Chan. One former classmate takes credit for having been instrumental in teaming Young-Chan with Soon-ho, though he also expresses jealousy towards their relationship.
Seung-jun does not seek to exploit or expose the couple’s lifestyle, and while some of the issues addressed may appear slightly distressing on paper, this is far from a gloomy film. It is, in many ways, incredibly joyous. The pleasure gleaned from acts as simple as the couple tossing acorns in the park is infectious. By the time the end credits roll, not a lot has changed in Seung-jun or Young-Chan’s lives. That said, Seung-jun should not rule out the possibility of revisiting their story in a couple of years.