This review is based on a screening at the 2023 BFI London Film Festival.
In the film “Cobweb,” director Kim Jee-woon explores the all-consuming world of moviemaking in 1970s South Korea. The story revolves around Kim Ki-yeol, played by Song Kang-ho, who is determined to make his latest film a classic of Korean cinema despite numerous obstacles. As the sets collapse and government officials try to shut down the production, Ki-yeol faces paranoia, hidden agendas, fragile egos, and mental breakdowns.
The movie combines slapstick farce and character-driven drama, with Song delivering a performance of extremes. Ki-yeol experiences stress-induced hallucinations, awkward comedy moments, and melodramatic clashes with Yu-rim (played by Krystal Jung). While Yu-rim initially stands her ground against the pushy director, the film takes a turn towards self-indulgence and collides fictional worlds.
The main flaw of “Cobweb” is that it prioritizes creative process over storytelling, leaving the audience without a captivating narrative. It aims to rival films like Alejandro E. Inarritu’s “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” in terms of storytelling but falls closer to James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist” in execution. Despite featuring solid performances from Im Soo-jung and Jeon Yeo-been, the film fails to convey a meaningful message about censorship, becoming an exercise in self-indulgence.
It is disappointing that “Cobweb” adds little value beyond showcasing cinematic techniques. The chaotic moments on the closed set fail to bring laughter, and the film turns into a claustrophobic scramble for closure, undermining any political statements. The audience is left unaware of the underlying message as technical razzle-dazzle overshadows everything else. Despite the obstacles faced by Ki-yeol, the film ultimately becomes an exercise in style rather than substance.