Sunday, October 24, 2004

"Old Boy"

Director: Chan-wook Park
Writing credits: Jo-yun Hwang & Chun-hyeong Lim (screenplay) & Garon Tsuchiya (story)
Min-sik Choi .... Dae-su Oh

Ji-tae Yu .... Woo-jin Lee
Hye-jeong Kang .... Mi-do

A man is brutally kidnapped in the street by a stranger. The kidnapper assassinates the hero's wife and plants the clues that incriminate the man and ensure that he will never be able to live freely back in society. Then, after 15 years of false imprisonment, the kidnapper releases his prisoner. The prisoner has no one left but the young daughter he left behind. But his one and only life-consuming goal is to find the reason he was locked up.

This is the second part of a trilogy (starting in 2002 with "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance"), devoted to the topic of revenge. The original manga is the basis for the film's shooting script. The tension in the film snowballs faster and faster until it climaxes at the final development: the discovery of an unbearable truth, one of those secrets that condemn you to madness or suicide.

Old Boy abounds in visual innovations, supported by the remarkable photography of Park Hyun-Won, a key player of Korean cinema. The light, dark and majestic, as well as the music (a plethoric mixture of waltz, tango and techno) confer on the film "the esthetics of excess". "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" was characterized by Park Chan-Wook with a dry and cold atmosphere, whereas "Old Boy" is characterized by a hot and humid atmosphere.

Park Chan-Wook enjoys abusing the traditional Korean principles of the prohibition of private revenge and respect for one's elders.

As the film unrolls, we follow the prisoner's search for reason and revenge and realise in turn the sadistic refinement of the kidnapper's own revenge-a very intellectual source of jubilation to him.
This cinema of cruelty is accompanied by existentialist thought. Once revenge is enjoyed, what remains to be achieved? The kidnapper professes a true obsession for his prisoner, whom he knows closely, to the point of forgetting his own loneliness. Once the prisoner, the object of his ambiguous passion who is subordinate to his orders, is subjugated and wiped out, he must face the vacuum of his existence.

No one is left the victor in this destructive face-to-face. Not even the finale, a kind of happy ending where a beautiful hypnotist intervenes, the mistress of the memory, manages to tone down the feeling of fear that spreads in the audience. What remains is a bitter taste in the mouth and the growing fear that even the passions of lust and revenge are nothing in the end. And our lives are meaningless.

"Laugh and everyone will laugh. Cry and you will be all alone" the main character repeats, a beautiful proverb that brilliantly summarizes this remarkable film.

If only they knew about God and the value they have in Him. If only...


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