Castaway on the Moon (2009) dir. Lee Hae-Jun
Castaway On the Moon is a very fun film to watch. But also highlights a phenomenon (known as Hikikomori in Japan) commonly seen in East Asian societies which is the withdrawal or escape from the world because of the pressure brought about by mostly social factors such as in this case: financial and relationships. East Asian societies have this pressure to conform subtly imposed on its people and throughout the films I’ve watched for this class, it’s been a common underlying theme. (Note: Hikikomori is not a culture-bound phenomenon, it is also reported in Western societies but the underlying reasons differ). While Castaway is comedic, this subtly social commentary cannot be ignored.
Of course, it’s seen in the two main characters, Kim Jung Yeon and Kim Seong Geun. Both of whom are also escaping two different things. While male Kim’s more evident, female Kim’s not explicitly told. But that’s fine. A hikikomori’s reason for shutting himself/herself in has a very long list of reasons and perhaps even the hikikomoris themselves do not know the definitive one. But one thing is clear: escape and withdrawal.
We see how both characters try to live as normally as they can. Male Kim adjusts to the island life in just three months and with only a scarecrow as his companion (a symbol of his old self), he looks more lively than he did months ago. Female Kim lives virtually, by having this online presence, she feels “connected” with the world and tries to live normally by doing normal things like as she said, go to “work” and exercise. In fact, many hikikomoris retreat to the comforts provided by the online space. Here, societal norms and expectations are different. Here, they can create their own worlds, their own rules and eventually, their own identity.
Here, in their own world with their own norms and means of talking, we see how human connection tries to render boundaries useless. They break down the walls they have build once and reach an understanding. To these two, it begins with the noodles. The noodles becomes a symbol of hope and a thread for the two lonely characters. And eventually, it’s also each other that in the end, they long to see.
As cheesy and sentimental as this sounds, Castaway wants to show the light at the end of the tunnel. That through hardships, we can retreat to our own worlds but eventually, we will emerge, good as new. It’s not a dead end.
Written by Jianne Soriano (Twitter: @jiannemsoriano)