By nature with anthology films, you are going to get a mixed result when you bring in a mix of stories and directors, Doomsday Book is no exception.
Doomsday Book is a Korean anthology film from directors Kim Ji-woon and Yim Pil-sung. It was originally supposed to have three directors as it has three chapters but the two collaborated on one together when the other director dropped out. It works out to basically be three short films with the common link between them being the theme of the end of the world. It is a rather distinctive group of science fiction stories that are told with various levels of success.
The first chapter is entitled “A Brave New World” which was directed by Yim. It follows a geeky lab technician (Seung-beom Ryu) as he is tasked to clean his family’s apartment while they are on vacation. As he is cleaning he notices a rotten apple which the camera follows from the trash bin to where it eventually ends up; in food that he and others later consume. Many others. In fact, it is not long before the virus spreads to most of the citizens. At first the victims have flu-like symptoms but soon after that it turns them into zombies.
Even though a lot of what is seen in “A Brave New World” would be found in a typical horror film, the segment is set against a comedic tone. The score ensures that you do not take the subject matter you see too seriously. Overall, it was my least favorite chapter but at the very end it brings in a quote from the Bible that fits in wonderfully.
Kim’s centerpiece “The Heavenly Creature” features a robot repair specialist that was requested to inspect a robot that resides in a Buddhist temple. As he is inspecting the defective robot it is brought to his attention that the robot itself is Buddhist. This is a unique situation that he has never come across ever before. The robot turns out not to be defective but instead is achieving enlightenment.
This story was definitely most interesting one as it covers how technology is not only affecting social issues but it takes on religion as well. You find yourself rooting for the robot as its makers try to destroy it. Kim gives the robot heart while tackling some heavy topics.
Doomsday Book finishes with the final chapter called “Happy Birthday”. Korean scientists have noticed that a meteor is about to hit the Earth causing a panic that the world may end soon. The story is centered on a young girl who orders a replacement eight ball that she lost for her father’s pool table. The order becomes much more than she bargained for as that eight ball is in fact the 10 km meteor that is scheduled to hit the Earth.
“Happy Birthday” was the most exaggerated plot of them all.The first two segments were also imaginative but not completely out of the realm of happening. The thing I enjoyed most about the last one was the delightful visuals. The silly comedy peppered throughout was fun but it ultimately did not work for me as well as the previous segments did.
By nature with anthology films, you are going to get a mixed result when you bring in a mix of stories and directors, Doomsday Book is no exception. Some of the segments work better than others, in particular the part done by Kim. However, as much as I enjoyed the second part the best, it stuck out for the wrong reason. The first and last segments felt more playful and funny while the middle one took a much more serious route resulting in a muddled project that most anthology films struggle with.