Do you ever sit and wonder what exactly happened to your very first Nokia cell phone from the early 2000s? Or reminisce about where exactly your old cassette player went when you moved out of your family home? In a 21st century world, in which our computers have been upgraded into laptops, our MySpace accounts upgraded to Instagram profiles, our VHS tapes have become Netflix streaming, and our MP3 players have turned into Spotify apps, technology has become a significant marker into the various chapters of our lives. As we struggle to keep up with the various updates of the techy items that are supposed to make our lives increasingly easier, we often forget about the simpler, outdated items that no longer serve us purpose— even though they may hold years of cherished memories for us.
In Spike Hyunsuk Kim’s charming short film PINKI— which is being shown at Kansas City’s Panic Fest this week— these questions about our old pieces of technology that we have since moved on from are begging to be asked.
We first open with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of a pile of garbage being taken into a dumpster, with a noticeable, tiny pink item on the top of the pile. We meet a man, Tae, who seems to be traveling to or from his daily grind, when he starts to be followed by a young woman referred to as Pinki, wearing all pink— with accompanying pink hair to boot. She eventually approaches Tae with an excited, “Don’t you recognize me?” look upon her innocent face. She places her hands over his ears, which gives him an unpleasant, but familiar, buzzing sound. Annoyed, he shrugs her off and keeps going about his day.
In a beautifully shot scene, Pinki, sad and rejected, sits by herself, as the world passes her by— hoping and waiting for Tae to walk by once more. Once Tae begins to pass through the neighborhood again on his way home from work, he cautiously avoids Pinki. However, in a unique surprise, they both find themselves being approached by a very creatively made monster figure in an alleyway, credited as the “Trash Monster,” which resembles an interesting cross between Godzilla and a Transformer. (PINKI is worth checking out for the visual wonder of this monster alone.) The Trash Monster initially seems to be after both Tae and Pinki, but in actuality, he is really only after one of them— for reasons you will see as the film progresses.
PINKI, for its first five minutes, seems like just another J-horror, Godzilla-inspired, creature feature, but it touches upon something so much more profound than that. In fact, its only quality that could fit nicely into the “horror” genre box is the chase pursuit scene with the large, clawed, intimidating Trash Monster—but as the film unfolds, we realize that the Trash Monster is not necessarily the real antagonist at play here in this story.
Instead, PINKI plays out more like a touching memoir of Tae’s childhood, as he realizes who exactly Pinki is, what she represents, and why she seems so eager to reconnect with him. Director Kim uses effective POV shots and blurry visuals to distinguish snippets of Tae’s repressed childhood memories while counterbalancing zooms, floating-object-fantasy-sequences, slow-motion battle scenes, and fantastic usage of particular pop songs to warp the protagonist character back into his modern-day reality.
With such little dialogue, PINKI relies heavily on its heartwarming, physical performances from Sungchum Han (Tae) and Serin Kim (Pinki). We almost never see Han as Tae grin for the entire length of the film until its final moments, in which his character’s world is opening up, and his infectious smile is so wide, it lights up the entire frame with an already sunny backdrop. Serin Kim as Pinki projects pure innocence throughout, as her eyes are saddled with rejection when Tae does not recognize her during the pair’s first encounter. Serin Kim makes you question her character’s intentions initially, before gaining our complete trust and empathy within the film’s second act.
One of the most beautiful qualities of PINKI is the way it cleverly bookends its conclusion to its opening scene. Without getting into specifics, the character of Tae has reached a new level of understanding by the film’s end, completing his character’s relationship arc with Pinki, while introducing us to a new character that may also represent a familiar device from his past. I felt the same smile form across my face that Tae has, while memories of my old, beloved, technological devices flooded through my brain.
PINKI is truly a worthwhile 11-minute short, complimented by moving performances, a touching narrative, creative camera shots, with an idiosyncratic monster creature too, thrown in for good measure. Since our innocence can often get lost through the evolution of budding technology, dig up your old cassette tapes, transport yourself to your past, and check out PINKI.