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Winner in the Best VR Story category at Venice International Film festival 2017; Bloodless 12", by Gina Kim

The twelve minutes 360 video, BLOODLESS, transports us to the military camp town of Donducheond in South Korea. We follow the trail of a Korean sex-worker who was brutally murdered there in 1992 by a US military. Although the identity of the soldier was known to the authorities, he was never charged or sentence for this crime. The film is shot on the location where the murder was actually committed.

With very simple means, the video draws the viewer into the perspective of the murdered woman’s ghost, wandering the narrow streets and alleys of the military town. We see a stray puppy outside a compound house, we see shop venders and restaurants selling food to U.S soldiers out of window shops. There is no music or sound effects, only the natural surround sounds of the streets; people talking, a radio, a barking dog.

As darkness falls, the images become more ominous and claustrophobic. We enter the dark, narrow back-alleys where we can almost smell the garbage and filth. We are trapped there, as we become increasingly conscious of the clacking sound of high heels against the asphalt. We turn around, trying to locate the sound that keeps changing direction and location, until we are face to face with a mysterious, Korean woman; a sex-worker on high heels, looking down on us with a penetrating, heart-breaking look. We know that something terrible has happened, or is going to happen to her, and there is nothing we can do to prevent it.

Moving towards closure, we are in a tiny, basement like, yellow painted room with a hard, concrete floor. The door is ajar, no one is to be seen or heard. We are left there for a long time, trying to orientate ourselves as to what is happening, our view confined by the narrow walls of the small room. Outside there is only darkness and the faint sound of the nightly town, going about its business.

On the floor is a heap of cloth, some kind of shawl or drapery. It doesn´t seem to be covering anything. Then, involuntary, you push your chair back as blood begins to seep from under the cloth. On the lightly painted floor, it seems very bright and red. It keeps flowing, and you keep fighting the impulse to lift your feet up. The blood trickle into a dark, red pool on the floor and at the same time, you hear the clacking, high heels in the corridor, walking away.

The experience demonstrates a forceful use of the 360-experience combined with minimal, but effective storytelling. The absence of dialogue and voice-over incites the viewer to piece together the subtle visual and auditory clues instead, creating a sense of agency. Cinematographic suspense tools, like the dark alleys, the clacking heels and the elusive woman, mix naturally with the sense of transportation and presence of the VR medium. Combined, they enhance the innate urgency of the story and the feeling of being a witness.

At the end, as a text in black informs us of the backstory and the political-historic perspective, you read with the image of the blood still lingering in your mind, the faint feeling of blood on your hands, of having seen what the murderer must have seen; of having stood in his place.

Gina Kim on the making of Bloodless
‘’For 25 years, I have struggled to find a way to make a film about this tragic incident. But I kept coming up against the fact that I could not cinematically represent the story without exploiting the image and thereby reproducing the original violence itself. But with VR, the viewer is no longer a passive spectator, who can take voyeuristic pleasure from a spectacle in front of them (and at a distance). Upon realizing the potential of the VR, I came up with a way to tell the same violent story, without showing and exploiting the image of her. After studying the neighbourhood where she lived and worked, obsessively walking in loops around the brothels, mimicking her itinerary on the night of her murder, I determined to have her ghost guide us: to the perfectly preserved dilapidated streets, the club that she met the soldier, and finally the small room she was mutilated and died."


Cecilie Levy. Nov. 29, 2017