It all seems deeply, although not terribly interestingly, mysterious and cryptic. The 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival program notes tried to build the film up with expectations of something like David Lynchs Twin Peaks (1990-1), although it falls short of this by an exceedingly wide margin. Hong-min Park displays a bland uninteresting visual style that does little to build a sense of mystery. The sole scene that stands out might be the one in the cafe, which does generate a minor degree of strangeness. A Fish was originally shot in 3D (although was screened flat at the festival) and it is possible that this provided much that is not evident in the film.
Shortly after the shamanistic ceremony, things become entirely baffling. The husband and wife appear to change bodies he becomes her and vice versa several times. It is later stated that he is possessing her body. In the Q&A after the film, Hong-min Park explained that the shamanistic ceremony being conducted by So-eun Choi was to raise her husbands spirit from the dead (based on a traditional ceremony that is conducted on the real Jindo Island) and that he has been dead all along (although Park would not clarify at what point in the film the husband ceased to become living or whether the private eye was also dead, much to the audiences confusion). Interspersed throughout are scenes with two fishermen who reel in a fish that starts talking to them in a croaking voice and much philosophical speculation that that they are like fish going up to the hook. Later they lose their memories and even any sense of their identities. According to Park, they are allegorical representatives of each of us and that fish and hooks are a metaphor for our existential plight and the appeal of the afterlife, although it is not clear why this also involves talking fish or amnesia.
In the end, despite all of A Fishs pretensions to meaningfulness, what we have is yet another knockoff of The Sixth Sense (1999). Hong-min Park tries to fill the film with cryptic atmosphere and mystery but the films denouement is a tired rehash of the deathdream plot twist that has been to death by too many films An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1962), Carnival of Souls (1962), Seizure/Queen of Evil (1974), The Survivor (1981), Sole Survivor (1983), Siesta (1987), Jacobs Ladder (1990), Final Approach (1991), A Pure Formality (1994), The Others (2001), Soul Survivors (2001), The Brown Bunny (2003), Dead End (2003), I Pass for Human (2004), Hidden (2005), Reeker (2005), Stay (2005), The Escapist (2008), Passengers (2008), The Haunting of Winchester House (2009), Someones Knocking at the Door (2009), Wound (2010), Leones (2012), 7500 (2014) and The Abandoned/The Confines (2015). The lack of clarity the film gives to what is happening dooms it. Hong-min Park stated that he wanted to make a film that confused audiences and left them unaware of what is happening. I can only say that he succeeded in his intentions.
Hong-min Park next went on to make Alone (2015), another film about existential confusion as am amnesiac man wanders a maze of back alleys, which is slighly better made but no less confusing.
(Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival)