‘Cobweb’ (2024) Review: Cinema is Chaos

Nuha Hassan
4 min readFeb 7, 2024
Song Kang-ho as Director Kim. Image courtesy of Goldwyn Films.

Kim Jee-woon’s Cobweb asks significant questions about the essence of filmmaking. The movie follows one lone director who struggles to reshoot his completed film, set in the 1970s, against the wishes of his producer and the state censorship board. While the movie focuses on drama and tension, Kim visualises the story of the self-proclaimed director as a ‘film within a film.’ It also depicts the harsh conditions of film sets, the reality of state censorship boards, and the challenges filmmakers face. It is a hilarious satirical film that observes a Korean cinema set, as the drama creates chaos and misunderstanding.

Director Kim (Song Kang-ho, Broker, Parasite) has a revelation. Amidst his return to directing what he hopes to be a masterpiece, he wants to reshoot the final act within two days to complete his vision. The wife of his former mentor and now producer of his films, Chairwoman Baek (Jang Young-nam), refuses to approve reshoots despite Director Kim’s assurance that the new ending will change the movie. She reminds him that it will not be easy to reshoot the scenes due to the ensemble’s busy schedule.

With no hope of conniving Chairwoman Baek, Director Kim rushes to Shin Mi-do (Jeon Yeo-been), the daughter of his former mentor and producer’s niece, and hands the script to her. After reading the script, she believes Director Kim can complete his masterpiece and secure financing for the reshoots. Director Kim recalls his entire cast: the leading actress, Min-ja (Lim Soo-jung), the leading man, Ho-se (Oh Jung-se), a younger actress who is secretly pregnant, Yu-rim (Krystal Jung) and veteran, Madam Oh (Park Jung-soo).

Image courtesy of Goldwyn Films.

As the cast and crew get ready to start shooting the final act, a man from the censorship office arrives to shut down the production, and tensions escalate when the talent becomes restless and tired of Director Kim’s demands.

Cinema is chaotic, and a lot is going on in Cobweb. The movie begins with the fictional story of the titular film in a stylised black-and-white sequence. It’s a story about betrayal, infidelity and secrets, and Min-ja is acting out the finale scene before it is wrapped. After minor feedback from Director Kim, Min-ja goes back and acts it out — everything is perfect. When the camera shifts to Director Kim, it changes to colour, and the real drama is far more interesting than the black-and-white sequences.

The ensemble is fantastic. The movie has different characters with individualistic storylines that weave perfectly into the themes and elements of Korean cinema. From Director Kim’s obsessiveness to the secret affair between Yu-rim and Ho-se, Kim knows how to infuse comedy and drama into the story. This is the best part of Cobweb’s story. Yu-rim is the star of Director Kim’s movie. She has a busy schedule, and with only two days to shoot, she has no choice but to power through. With secrets of her own, her affair with Ho-se brings tension between them.

Jeon Yeo-been as Mi-do. Image courtesy of Goldwyn Films.

Furthermore, the mystery element is part of the central conflict. What happened to Director Kim’s mentor? From the beginning, some characters antagonise Director Kim because of his connection with his mentor. He claims he wrote the script for his mentor’s movies but never received credit. After Director Kim released his debut film, which received critical acclaim, his subsequent films didn’t perform well.

All of these details are revealed through more than two storylines. Because of this, the moment of truth is not as impactful as it should have been. However, it doesn’t set the movie back but brings new light on how far the director is willing to go to keep their visions alive. His obsession to finish this movie was exactly how he dreamed it would be the turning point of his career.

Perhaps Cobweb suffers from the ‘film-within-a-film’ storyline. But that is why it works perfectly. Satirical movies are the best when they show the absurd and unhinged ways drama can get out of hand. Song, Jung, and Jeon’s performances are standouts, as they bring an equal amount of entertaining and ridiculous moments on screen. So, what is cinema? It is chaotic but organised chaotic. It brings exhausting, awkward and joyous moments.

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