After waking from a dream in which he causes an accident, Jin, who has been dreaming more frequently, is astonished to discover that the accident actually happened. What’s more, the police arrest Ran, a young woman Jin has never met, after video footage shows her to be the cause of the crash. As both soon discover, despite being complete strangers to each other, whenever Jin dreams, Ran acts out the scenario in her sleep which soon proves to be detrimental to both, making both Jin and Ran desperate to uncover the cause and to put an end to the strange phenomena.
Dream centric films had been a long beaten dead horse before Kim approached the idea of Dream (Bi-mong, 비몽), however Kim manages to completely sidestep all the clichés that have become associated with films focused on dreams with a highly original film with his signature style all over the material. Rather than have the film be a continuous question of what is or isn’t a dream like the majority of similarly themed films, Kim goes the opposite route. While the lines between dream and reality are blurred slightly during the later half of the film, for the most part Kim makes it explicitly clear what is a dream and what isn’t, making the main focus of the film Jin and Ran uncovering the source of their predicament, what Jin’s dreams mean to Ran and why she plays out his dreams. The solving of this puzzle is particularly fascinating as it leads to the concept of the double or doppelganger that Kim played around with in Bad Guy and in one of the films most memorable moments, the characters find themselves face to face with both the subjects of their dreams and themselves. The relationship that develops between Jin and Ran throughout the film is rather sweet and Kim does allow time for some light comedic moments between the two, however the film inevitably takes a turn for the bleak with the intense emotional torment shared between the two manifesting itself physically, in proper Kim fashion, by the sticking of sharp objects into skin.
An interesting thing regarding Dream is its bi-lingual dialogue with lead actor Joe Odagiri speaking Japanese throughout the film while the rest of the cast speak Korean. Its also worth noting that Kim won best director at the Korean Association of Film Critics Awards which, considering Kim’s pariah status in his home country couldn’t have been more ironic. Dream was also the second film Kim directed in 2008 with the first film being Breath and it would be three years before Kim would direct again after a near-fatal accident on the set of Dream did a number on Kim’s psyche. During the filming of a crucial scene, lead actress Na-yeong Lee was nearly killed and the event had such a lasting impression on Kim he retreated from public life. This intense period of self-reflection was captured on video by Kim and turned into the documentary/self-portrait Arirang (2011) which documents Kim’s personal crisis following Dream. In the film, Kim repeatedly interrogates himself, directly referring to the scene in question asking himself “Hey Kim Ki-duk, why have you been living like this for three years since 2008... Is it because of that accident while shooting that jail scene in Dream… Frightened you, didn’t it?” Thankfully Kim overcame the trauma and continues to make original and daring films like Dream that strike a perfect balance between pain and beauty, leaving many a susceptible viewer completely shattered.