For some, becoming a vegetarian is a very personal, moral and emotional decision that is often based on a number of factors, including one’s empathy toward animals as well as health and environmental concerns. For the main female character in South Korean writer-filmmaker Lim Woo-seong’s first feature film Vegetarian, she is compelled to pursue a meat-free lifestyle thanks to marital troubles and a series of bizarre dreams which ultimately unfold into a tale of artistic and carnal desire. If your hunger is piqued, then the filmmaker’s adaptation of Korean author Han Gang’s novel of the same title has served its purpose.
Chea Min-Seo portrays the meat-eschewing, increasingly gaunt and emotionally sensitive housewife, and given the fact that the actress lost approximately 18 pounds in just one month for the role, her performance resonates with greater depth and realism. Her frail body serves as a convincingly visual backdrop to the ever-mounting alienation and despondence she exhibits toward her husband and family. Despite loved ones attempting to crack through her shell, she purges her life of every semblance of meat, including those who smell of it, much to her husband’s chagrin.
The filmmaker recently told the Yon Hap News Agency: “Being a vegetarian is not only about rejecting meat, but about all human desire. Art is not something that can be explained in the category of logic or morality, so I understood the artist’s desire and also empathized with his wife torn between anger toward her husband and sympathy for her younger sibling.” This theme is played out in Vegetarian when the only person who can get inside the main character, both figuratively and literally, is her brother-in-law who happens to be an artist capable of triggering a primal metamorphosis of profoundly sensual proportions. She becomes the artist’s human canvas and their collaboration facilitates a psychological purging that makes way for personal discovery, revelation and the fulfillment of primal needs.
Korean trailer below: