“Birdcage Inn” is a story about Jina, the new call girl at the Birdcage Inn. The Birdcage Inn is a hotel that is operated by a poor family – a father, mother and their two kids. The family relies on Jina’s income as a whore to pay the expenses that keep the hotel alive for business; as well as putting food on the table. Still, the family is barely getting by and practically living very low-class. There’s not much known about Jina, but one thing is clear, she’s not happy with her job status (is there a whore who is?). When Jina’s not working, she takes the time to enjoy the beauty of looking at the ocean. Jina is also a terrific artist, but God only knows why she doesn’t use her artistic talents instead of selling her body. It’s apparent that Jina is obviously torn from something that happened in her unexplainable past. Hyemi, the daughter of the family, resents Jina from the beginning. Not only does Hyemi hate the fact that her family runs such a scummy business, but she blames Jina for being the primary tool. Jina notices Hyemi’s rude attitude towards her, but still tries to win her affection by doing nice things for her and buying her items she can’t afford. Still, Hyemi doesn’t budge. The plot thickens when unexpected things cough start to happen: Jina’s old pimp shows up out of the blue demanding that he still gets a cut of her earnings, Hyemi’s young brother develops a small crush on her which leads to trouble, Jina gets involved with an Andy Lau-wannabe (I had to mention this), and worst of all, Hyemi’s boyfriend gets in between Hyemi and Jina.
Primal instincts' analysis continues in the third film of the growing auteur, but here Kim Ki-duk sins of event reiteration and constructs only two character arcs, one of them fully developed and the other one ambiguous, which is a low percentage considering the amount of people involved in the plot. This is the first sign of the director's trademarks, but just realized to a limited extent; it is his stepping stone for glorious things to come in the future. Images are patronizing, strangely; they present themselves as "poetic" and "important" when, actually, the supposed shattering of a whole family lifestyle is developed partially and the imagery just elevates the final product to a higher aesthetic level, but not necessarily a universal one. The film makes the correct decision of being less transgressive but struggles hardly to reach the balance between unsettling and emotional when said reactions are called to the table. At least Wild Animals (1998) had its intentions clear; this one is dissonant. As said, it is a struggling film with an interesting protagonistic plight in search of an identity and a better existence (I find interesting the symbolism of sea representing freedom and a "better" life), and the goldfish reaching this moment could be read as a foreshadowing of how Jin-a will feel in the future, if anything. Unfortunately, it is interrupted by cliché moments.