Chan-wook Park (Korea, 1963) debuted with the gangster noir
Daleun Haega Kkuneun Kkum/ The Moon Is the Sun's Dream (1992), followed by the comedy Trio (1997).
The war movie
Gongdonggyeongbiguyeok Jeieseuei/ Joint Security Area (2000) was his
first commercial success.
Boksuneun Naui Geot / Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002),
the first film in the "revenge trilogy",
is a mutant film that slowly morphs into the lethal
duel between two men who belong to two different social classes, but
straddling the border between vulgar farce and metaphysical concept and
appropriating stereotypes of melodrama, detective and horror movies.
Not content with contrasting two desperate men who feel cheated by fate,
Park exponentially increases the doses of violence and shock as the story
progresses, turning their duel into an apocalypse of civilization.
By the end the political/philosophical story has turned into a carnival
of revolting images.
The dual protagonists (one because is mentally slow and the other one because
he's a greedy businessman) live in moral universe where only the most
primordial emotions survive (sister, daughter) and anything else is allowed.
Via a cascade of original unpredictable shots from all sorts of perspectives and
in a fractured rhythm, as well as a knack for disturbingly elliptic scenes,
Park plays with the psychology of the viewer, creating love/hate emotions
for each character that turn upside down along the way.
There is also an obvious political parable hidden in the story: one of the
two is a ruthless capitalist who fires workers, indifferent to their struggles,
and is punished by losing his most precious belonging (his daughter),
but then he tortures one anarchist to death and kills and cuts to pieces the
deafmute worker (this all sounds allegorical), and is eventually executed
by the anarchists (read: in the name of the people who suffered at his hands).
Therefore it is also, in a sense, a grotesque agit-prop allegory.
At the same time there is also punishment for the working class, as the
jobless deafmute loses his most valuable belonging (his sister) after
committing a crime against the capitalist; and the capitalist will eventually
cut his body into pieces (after telling him "i know that you are a good man"),
as if it were the inevitable logic of class struggle.
A deaf-mute with dyed green hair, Ryu, trains his skills at the baseball bat.
He is a worker in a factory owned by a rich industrialist.
Anarchist post political flyers in a male's bathroom.
obsessed with boy kidney transplant to save sister
He lives with a sister who is very ill. Ironically, her moans of pain are
misunderstood on the other side of the wall as organism, and the four kids
who share the apartment next door masturbate together while listening to her.
Ryu hardly pays attention to his sister: she has been sick for a long time.
Her problem is that she needs a kidney transplant and there is no donor.
Ryu tried in vain to offer his own: he doesn't have the same blood type.
One day Ryu is told by his manager that he has been fired, something that
Ryu does not seem to fully understand at first.
Later he follows two men to the top of a building under construction to an
old woman's improvised office. They are in the business of buying and selling
kidneys illegally. She is a drug addict whose hand shakes so badly that Ryu
has to help her with her shot of heroin.
He wants to trade his own kidney for a kidney of the type
her sister needs, and he is willing to offer all his savings too.
He wakes up hours later, naked, alone, with a scar on the side of his body:
they stole his kidney and his money. He runs out naked and hitchhikes on the
highway to get back home. Now he has no money. His girlfriend Young-mi,
who belongs to the anarchist organization (and is not deaf-mute at all),
gets mad at him, but comes up with a different plan: kidnap the child of
the industrialist. After all, he's the one who caused the problem by
firing him. Ryu reluctantly accepts, or maybe just takes a while to
understand her logic.
Meanwhile, the industrialist is driving his limousine when suddenly
a former employee whom he fired throws himself under his car. The camera
shows us the scene as viewed from the asphalt, the poor man looking up
at the industrialist, his friend and their children. The worker is desperate,
he has spent his life working as a welder and doesn't know how else to feed
his family. As the industrialist ignores his rant, the man pulls out a knife
and cuts his belly in front of them. The industrialist and is friend eventually
manage to take the knife from him and stop him before he kills himself.
Ryu and his girlfriend watched the scene. They have been following the girl
and are now ready to strike. It is easy to kidnap her at the playground and
make her feel comfortable at home, where she mostly watches cartoons on tv.
Ryun does not hesitate to make her cry in order to take a heartbreaking
picture of her to blackmail her father, but at the same time asks Young-mi
not to mention the girl's mother. The girl knows that her parents are
divorced but doesn't know of a car accident for which her mother is being
Following cell phone instructions, her father walks to an appointment with Ryu
carrying a briefcase full of ransom money. Ryu attacks him from behind, covers
his face in a garbage bag, ties him to a pole and leaves with the briefcase.
Ryu returns home happy but finds a suicide note that his sister gave to the
little girl: his sister committed suicide in the bathtub.
Ryu is devastated by grief.
The industrialist spends the night tied to the post,
a dog barking at him, nobody hearing his screams for help.
Ryu loads his sister's corpse in the car and, with the crying girl in the
back, drives to the pond where they used to play as children.
He patiently buries his sister under a thousand stones
while the girl is asleep in the car.
The only witness is a crippled mentally handicapped boy
who scares the girl when he tries to steal her necklace.
Awaken and afraid, the girl walks to the pond's edge looking for Ryu, who is
weeping in front of his sister's grave,
and falls in the water. Ryu is terrified and cannot save her.
The cripple simply walks towards her dead body and steals her necklace.
Ryu brings the girl's body back to shore.
When the body is discovered, the industrialist
tells the police that he can think of no enemies, which is obviously false
as we know that he fired many workers, each of which hates him.
He then witnesses the gruesome surgical autopsy on his daughter's body.
We are shown the cremation of the little girl shown inside the cremation
chamber and even inside the casket.
Later the businessman alone in his wealthy mansion sees the
ghost of his daughter.
The police investigate and tracks down
Ryu's apartment, but Ryu has disappeared.
The industrialist finally tells the police detective that he suspects the man
who made the scene in front of his car.
They go to his poor dilapidated shanty and discover that the man has killed
himself and his entire family.
Their bodies are already decomposing but one child is still alive.
The businessman stares speechless to the scene and then follows the child
to the hospital. However, the doctor gives the child no chance to survive.
Ryu and his girlfriend gesture at each other in the sign language of the
deafmute while they have sex.
The industrialist visits Ryu's flat again. The
four kids next door are listening to the radio loud enough that he can hear
what the radio is broadcasting. The radio host is reading a note that is
unmistakably by Ryu. The industrialist rushes to the radio station and the
radio host shows him a drawing depicting both the burial of the sister and
the little girl floating lifeless in the pond.
The industrialist finds the pondas, as shown in the drawings, he finds the
grave of Ryu's sister, whose body is already being eaten by worms.
As he starts moving the thousand stones that Ryu piled on the body, the
crippled boy comes to help and the father recognizes his daughter's necklace.
What follows is a virtuoso sequence of three interlocked conversations:
a hospital girl died because she received a cheap kidney (presumably the one
stolen from Ryu);
Ryu's girlfriend is making phone calls to track down the criminals and she asks him what he wants to do with them;
the industrialist answers the same question that someone asked him over the
phone with a "kill them".
The businessman wants his revenge on Ryu and Ryu wants his revenge on the
Finally Ryu's girlfriend finds the old lady who runs the kidney racket.
Ryu buys a baseball bat. Then he launches his attack using that weapon.
He takes out one of the men when he opens the door, then the other one who is
just about to rape an anaesthetised girl. This one collapses to the floor
with his pants down, twicthing, gushing blood.
Ryu even smashes the bodies repeatedly with the baseball bat in front of the
lady (possibly their mother) and doesn't realize that she is walking towards
him holding a knife.
Back home, however, his
girlfriend is being tortured by the industrialist with electrical current.
He covers her in a sheet and then sends electrical shocks.
She refuses to tell him where Ryu is.
The bell rings but it's just a delivery boy bringing food that she ordered.
The businessman eats it calmly in front of her twitching body who is
Any pity we felt for his fatherly grief is gone.
The girl mutters that she's a member of a terroris organization and they will
come back to kill him. He shuts her up by giving her a final dose of electricity.
The same cruel man later visits the dying child at the hospital, as if he
intended to adopt him.
Ryu walks back home bleeding profusedly from the wound inflicted by the old lady.
The police find Ryu's girlfriend. They know
that she was a anarchic activist but believed she had no political partners.
Ryu arrives when all the police cars and the ambulance are parked in front
of the building.
The boy who delivered food was also assassinated (probably because he saw the
Just then the police detective is informed that
three people have been murdered elsewhere (Ryu's victims).
Ryu gets out of elevator while the police get in. They hold his girlfriend's
lifeless body up and he finds a way to hold her hand one last time.
Now it's a duel between Ryu and the father, each looking for the other no matter what, Ryu waiting in front of the father's house, the father waiting inside Ryu's apartment.
The police, now on the carnage of the triple murder, call to warn the
businessman that Ryu is a psycho: he he took the kidneys of his victims.
Tired, Ryu gives up and returns home where the businessman is waiting for him.
Ryu sees him from the window: he is asleep on the floor. Ryu tries to open
the door, but
the businessman set up an electrical trap that shocks Ryu the moment he touches
The industrialist drags the unconscious body inside.
He furiously slaps the body, grabs a knife and is about to cut Ryu apart but then stops with a better idea.
He drives back to the pond and drags Ryu (now conscious and shivering)
to the middle of the pond. With water up to his chest, the rich man
almost apologizes for killing the poor deafmute. In fact he
even calls Ryu "a good man" but then pulls the knife and
cuts his tendons so Ryu will drawn in terrible pain.
Then he remains there to stare at the human being squirming in the water.
Just then he receives a call from the hospital: the dead worker's child didn't make it.
A cold female voice informs him that he can pick up the body from the mortuary.
The man just started digging a grave for Ryu when a car pulls up.
Four men get out and, without saying a word, knife him from all sides,
the last one pinning a policital flyer to his chest.
We hear again the girl's voice warning him about the terrorist cell.
When they leave, he is still alive, trying to read the flyer in his last breath.
Nearby are the bloody plastic bags in which he put Ryu's body parts.
Oldboy (2003), loosely on Garon Tsuchiya's and Nobuaki Minegishi's manga, is a Kafka-ian
apologue in which a man is kept prisoner in a room for mysterious reasons for
several years, and then he has to find out not so much the persecutor (whom
he could kill easily) but the truth (why he was kept prisoner and why he was
The revelation comes in a way reminiscent of the ancient Greek tragedy.
The execution, though, is a masterly hybrid of high art and pulp fiction,
with an acrobatic screenplay in which eventually all pieces of the puzzle fall
The allegorical surrealism of David Lynch's thrillers, the fatalistic
existentialism of Sergio Leone's westerns and the brutal realism of
Quentin Tarantino's gangster movies find an unlikely intersection.
A man, Dae-su, looking a bit wild, is holding a man by his necktie at the edge
of a rooftop. It looks like Dae-su is torturing the other man.
The life of the protagonist is turned into an excruciating agony: a long
imprisonment during which his mind seems to go mad because of not knowing the
truth, and then a brief moment of freedom that ends up with the revelation
of the truth by which his mind truly goes mad. In fact, he may have been better
off remaining in that prison forever.
Despite the frequent opportunities to turn the whole story into a virtual
reality, the plot appears to be strictly linear.
The scene changes abruptly.
Dae-su Oh is a businessman who gets drunk and is arrested by the police.
When a friend finally gets him released, Daesu heads home for his daughter's
birthday (his present being a pair of angel wings)
but he never gets there. Someone kidnaps him and he wakes up in
a well-furnished apartment. He never sees his captor's face. He has a tv set
that broadcasts the news that "they" want him to hear: his wife has been
murdered and he is the chief suspect. Years go by. He keeps track of the
passing of time by tattooing cuts on his hand. When they want to tidy up
the apartment or cut his hair, they release sleeping gas in the apartment
so he falls asleep and doesn't see them. Fifteen years go by. He is trying
to escape by digging a hole in the wall and estimates that he only has one
more month to dig. One day a woman walks in and seems
to use hypnosis to get him into another world. The instructions are that he
has to look down and see a field of grass... Sure enough he wakes up inside
a suitcase on a grassy rooftop. He behaves like a primordial man. The first
human being he meets after fifteen years is a suicidal man
who is ready to
jump from the rooftop with his little dog. Daesu briefly holds him by the
necktie (the first scene of the film: it wasn't Daesu torturing this man but
Daesu trying to save his life).
He then scares a girl who takes the same elevator and steals her sunglasses.
As Dae-su calmly walks away, the suicidal man falls to his death on the roof
of a car.
A gang of juvenile delinquents confronts him and he can apply for the first
time the "virtual" training that he received in the cell (the female hypnotist
must have trained him in martial arts among other things).
He has no money and is wanted by the police. He sits on a bench and a
stranger, who appears to be a drunk tramp, hands him a wallet and a phone.
He walks into a Japanese restaurant and seems to recognize the waitress, and she
seems to recognize him.
His persecutor calls him again and tells him that he is a great scholar of...
his (Dae-su's) life.
He eats a squid alive.
The waitress, amused, touches his hand and he suddenly collapses.
Somehow she likes him and trusts him enough to take him to her apartment
and nurse him until he gets better.
There is something savage in his brain after 15 years of captivity: when she
goes to the restroom, he follows her, still half naked, and tries to rape her
while she is peeing.
She resists him, but then forgives him, understands him, confesses that
she likes him and offers to help him.
Mido must have had her own trauma because she cries remembering something
that happened to her in a subway.
They set out to discover the truth behind Daesu's ordeal.
Mido discovers his daughter's address, the house where she has been adopted.
He catches her chatting on the computer with a man and gets suspicious about
He tracks down the place where he was kept. It is a private jail run by a
confident young man, who boasts of how well he runs his business. Behind him
are several monitors showing what is happening in the various cells of the jail.
Daesu tortures him mercilessly, pulling one tooth after the other.
Then, using a simple hammer, he makes his way
out through a group of men armed with sticks. He has become an invincible
warrior. He calls the elevator and more men appear. By the time the elevator
reaches the underground garage, they are all dead.
He walks in the streets with torn clothes, bleeding from his many wounds,
but then collapses crossing a street. A young man stops a car and helps
him get into it, and then bids him goodbye calling him "Daesu", i.e. not
a casual encounter.
He still lives in Mido's apartment. While she is sleeping, he
finds a tape that talks about his 15-year odyssey.
Someone is taking pictures of him.
Daesu visits an old friend,
Joo-hwan (the same one who rescued him from the police station),
who is happy to see him,
and makes him listen to the tape. They are to think of the men
who might hate Daesu, like the husbands of all the wives he screwed.
Daesu still suspects Mido. Back home he tortures her until he is called to
a meeting with his persecutor. He meets in person the same young man and a
grey-haired man. Daesu's first impulse is to kill the bastard, but the old
man is the first one to be stronger than him. Besides, the young man, whose name
what the game is: Daesu has five days to find out the truth if he wants to save
Mido. If he succeeds his persecutor promises to kill himself (he has a
pacemaker with a switch so he can kill himself any time he wants to).
Daesu is still tempted to just kill him right away, but the young man smiles:
if Daesu kills him, Daesu will never find out why he was imprisoned for 15 years.
The choice is between seeking revenge or finding the truth.
Back home Daesu finds that Mido is being tortured by a gang led by
the jailman whom he tortured, whose teeth have been replaced with false teeth.
They grab him and tie him to a chair.
They are about to torture him the way he tortured when someone calls
Minutes later the grey-haired man
shows up with briefcase full of cash and saves Daesu's life.
The jailmen and his gangsters leave.
The young man is controlling everything that Daesu does.
They can hear what Daesu and Mido are saying in the car.
They also have a camera in the apartment.
They hear the couple make wild love for the first time.
Men with gas masks enter the apartment and lies besides them while they are
sleeping naked, which could mean that they have been using sleeping gas on
Daesu realizes that the young man can hear him and tries in vain to find out
where the transmitter is.
The investigation takes Daesu to the register of his high school. He calls
Joo-hwan, who was his classmate. Together they reconstruct what happened:
a girl committed suicide, it was Woo-jin's sister... Right then
Woo-jin walks into Joo-hwan's and kills him.
Alarmed, Daesu decides to visit the jailman as a customer: Daesu shows Mido
the cell in which he was kept for 15 years and then... pays the jailman to
keep Mido there for five days (obviously to protect her from
Woo-jin). It's the safest place to be.
Daesu tries to find out what happened in high school and slowly the memory
comes back: the girl killed herself because Daesu had caught them
(brother and sister) having sex and then told a friend who told a friend who
told... (we see it in a flashback).
Now that he figured out the truth,
Daesu confronts Woo-jin. Initially he tries violence but
he just cannot hit the grey-haired man, probably an effect of 15 years of
hypnotic training in the cell.
Daesu suddenly realizes that there is more:
his sister did not commit suicide, Woo-jin killed her (to avoid the
consequences of a possible pregnancy).
Nonetheless, that's why Woo-jin kidnapped him and kept him prisoner for 15
years. But why 15 years and why did Why Woo-yin released him after 15 years?
Woo-jin reveals that they hypnotized both Mido and Daesu to fall in love,
to do exactly what they have been doing all this time, including wild sex.
And so it is explained why Mido, an attractive young woman, was so ready to
take a lover twice her age who behaved like a savage
Woo-jin points a green laser light to Daesu's face, hums a lullaby and then
points the laser to a gift-wrapped box.
Daesu opens it and finds an album of photographs: it's the story of his
daughter, from the last day that he saw her as a baby to how she looks like
as a grown woman... Mido... and ends with the pictures that they were secretely
taking of the two of them in love.
Woo-yin had been following Mido since she was four, waiting 15 years until
she became an attractive young woman.
Daesu starts running against his persecturo to kill him but the grey-haired
man stops him just with his eyes.
The grey-haired man is about to kill Daesu when
Woo-yin pulls out a pistol and shoots him. He wants Daesu alive.
The next step of the revenge is to have Mido open the same "gift"
(that has been delivered to her cell by the jailman).
Daesu calls her and begs her not to open the box.
Then Daesu begs Woo-yin not to tell Mido the truth. Daesu even kisses
the feet of his persecutor and barks like a dog.
Woo-yin laughs. Desperate to please his persecutor, Daesu offers to become
his slave. Daesu grabs a pair of scissors and cuts his own tongue.
Woo-yin seems satisfied. He got his revenge. He drops the
remote control of his pacemaker and starts walking away. Daesu grabs it
and clicks but nothing happens, and we suspect the option of the suicide
had all been a fabrication. Daesu is petrified by what comes next:
the recording of him and his daughter Mido having sex in her apartment.
Woo-yin takes the elevator and leaves Daesu alone with the tormenting
sounds of the orgasm. But in the elevator Woo-yin encounters his own hell,
as he re-lives the moments of his sister's death (we see it in a new flashback):
she wanted to jump, he held her (like Daesu held that suicidal man), he had
a camera hanging from his neck with which he taken the last picture of her,
she begged him to let go, and eventually he did so. Woo-yin puts the gun
to his head and pulls the trigger.
The scene shifts suddenly to a snow-covered forest in which the
female hypnotizer has decided to help a speechless Daesu
to alter his memories and program his future.
The another abrupt discontinuity and the woman is gone, Daesu is
lying in the snow, Mido runs to help him get up.
Two chairs nearby show that maybe father and daughter have simply been sitting
together in the forest and he, mentally incapacitated, has wandered away.
Chinjeolhan Geumjassi/ Kind-hearted Ms Geum-ja or Lady Vengeance (2005) completes Park's powerful
highly-inventive trilogy, one of the main achievements of Korean cinema.
Some creative scenes
are simply breathtaking even if they last only a split second. Notably when
a still frame of the girls becomes a door that opens
into the prison cell where the girls were inmates, one of the most elegant
fades into a flashback in the history of cinema (credit also
cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon).
The first half is another hyperkinetic jigsaw puzzle, with
frantic changes of scene and time, some of the scenes lasting only one or two
However, the second half is significantly slower, a simple linear narrative
with a melodramatic ending.
Park opts for a somber meditation instead of his usual metaphysical allegories,
and the result is sometimes amateurish.
The film therefore feels overlong, and much inferior to the previous two.
In general, the plot is the least plausible of the three.
Even his passion and knack for Grand Guignol scenes falls short of expectations:
men are tortured, women are raped, but in a tired and dejavu manner.
A band of musicians wearing Santa Claus costumes is waiting for someone in the
freezing winter cold. They start playing as a melancholy girl walks through the
When she was 19 years old, the beautiful Lee Geum-ja killed a little boy.
The nation was shocked by the brutality of the murder as much as by her
angel-like persona. A preacher fell in love with her and visited her in jail.
He convinced her that she was an angel and she started behaving like an angel
to the other inmates.
The girl is wearing no winter clothes. The preacher gently reproaches her and
offers her a gift to celebrate her release. She curses him and walks away,
definitely not looking like a grateful angel.
She has been in prison for 14 years.
She meets old friends, who are former inmates of the same prison.
Yang-hee, a former whore who also spent several years in prison for
strangling her pimp, offers her a place to sleep.
Apparently, they have been lovers.
Now Yang-hee can sense that Geum-ja only pretended to love her.
Alone in her room, Geum-ja gets on her knees and prays.
Then she dreams of killing a man in the most brutal manner.
She wears red high-heel shoes as if she were going on a date. Instead she
walks into the house of a middle-aged couple and vows to cut her own fingers
until they tell her what she wants to know. They do so after the first finger.
Now she has to wear a bandage and pay for the operation.
She starts working in a bakery. A younger boy, Geun-shik, is mesmerized by her beauty.
Meanwhile we see brief flashbacks that summarize the lives of her friends and
why each of them owes Geum-ja: So-young, in jail for robbing a bank, owes
Geum-ja because Geum-ja offered the kidney that saved her life (she now
tells her husband that he has to help Geum-ja with her plan);
Soo-hee, now a sculptor, whom Geum-ja saved from the sadistic fat lesbian
who had killed husband and mistress and then eaten them;
and there's also a North Korean spy, whom Geum-ja attended because not even
the guards wanted to.
Geum-ja, still with the bandaged finger, says she already found out where her
target lives: her plan consists in killing him.
The preacher waits for her and begs her to come back to the church, but
she tells him that she has converted to Buddhism: her plan relies on some
Buddhist book that she carries with her all the time.
One day the detective who worked on her case shows up at the bakery and
barely recognizes her. He is melancholic.
She tells the boy at the bakery that she kidnapped and killed a five-year old child.
We see in a flashback that she confessed to a murder but the detective didn't believe her: she couldn't even recognize the child's favorite marble.
Geum-ja also killed someone else: the fat lesbian, to whom she fed bleach under
the pretext of taking good care of her, a feat for which the entire prison
was grateful to her.
In a flashback we see Geum-ja as am 18-year old girl, pregnant, begging a
teacher to let her stay with him because she has nowhere to go, the father
of the child having dumped her. Now she's looking for her daughter.
The adoption agency won't even tell her whether the baby was adopted or not.
Geum-ja breaks into the office at night and steals the records of her
Then she asks her boss at the bakery for an advance. It turns out this man
met her at the prison. He had been shocked that she could bake such perfect
cakes with the lousy ingredients that the prison provided. That's why he
hired her after she was released.
She sleeps with the (much younger) boy of the bakery after telling him coldly
that she is planning to kill another person. Then she seduces him and they
have sex. Afterwards she tells him in a detached tone that it was actually
a name called Baek who killed the child. If the child were still alive,
he would be the same age of the boy she just slept with. The reasn why
she took the blame on herself is simple: Baek kidnapped her daughter and
threatened to kill her if Geum-ja didn't confess to the killing.
She confessed and accepted to spend all those years in jail, but we realize
that from the beginning she was planning her revenge, and she needed to make
all those friends in order to make her plan happen.
First, however, she travels to Australia, where her daughter is living with
rich parents. She gets gets them drunk and then kidnaps her daughter and
takes her back to Korea.
At night Geum-ja dreams that her daughter Jenny meets the dead
boy playing with the red marble.
The bank robber's husband is a mechanic who builds a special artistic gun
She asks her boy lover Geun-shik to drive them to the mountains with a dog.
While Geum-ja is out with the dog, the boy tries to teach the girl some Korean
girls in an empty classroom. It turns out that's
Geum-ja's shooting practice: she aims at the head of the dog and shoots.
That's what she has been rehearsing in her dreams for the man she hates.
We finally meet the evil man: kindergarten teacher Baek. One of Geum-ja's
friends has tracked him down. Another one has entered his house.
Baek is being alerted of what Geum-ja is up to.
It is snowing (and will snow till the end of the film).
Two men hired by Baek try to kidnap Geum-ja and Jenny, but Geum-ja pulls out
her new gun and shoots them.
(Jenny does not seem to be terrorized by the event, despite the fact that
the shot blows away and entire hand still armed with a knife).
Geum-ja and Jenny walk to Baek's place.
Baek has tied his much younger girlfriend to the chair after torturing her.
As we have seen before,
it is his habit to brutally rape her after dinner; and she obliges and is kind
and loving. This time he may have found out that she is one of Geum-ja's
friends, sent to him to spy on him. But this time the food is poisoned with
The disfigured bleeding girl watches amused as he falls asleep on the dinner
table and Geum-ja arrives to take care of him.
Geum-ja has to deal with her daughter too.
Her daughter did not forgive her, thinking that Geum-ja abandoned her of her
Geum-ja loads eerybody in a car and drives to an isolated house.
Baek wakes up tied and gagged. She puts a gun to his head and
forces him to translate in English her story to her daughter, from the killing
of the boy to the fact that now she intends to kill this man.
Geum-ja has decided to return the girl to her Australian parents.
Geun-ja breaks into tears. She hands the girl to the girlfriend who lived with
Baek and they leave her alone with Baek.
Geum-ja sticks the gun into his eye but can't pull the trigger.
She tries to strangle him with the necktie, then kicks him hysterically;
but still cannot finish him off.
While she's doing all of this, she a red marble ball hanging
from his cell phone, an obvious trophy, but with this trophy there are four
more objects. We realize that this man has killed four other children.
She shoots his feet so he can't run away.
A flashback shows police officers finding graves in the woods.
The detective and Geum-ja find videos of the killed children.
Geum-ja now feels even guiltier: those four children
would not have died if she had told the truth at the trial
and sent the killer to jail.
(The pace of the film slows down dramatically at this point, and the narrative
becomes purely linear).
Geum-ja (suddenly in charge of the events) and the detective (who acts simply
as her secretary) gather the parents at the house and start showing them the
videos. We cannot hear the voices of the parents but we can see the terror
in their facial expressions as they watch their children's last moments on
those videos. De facto, she is torturing the parents by showing them the
videos of their terrorized children.
At the end she tells them what she knows: that Baek, always working in
upper-class neighborhoods, kidnapped and killed children from other classes
(never his own) in order to ransom them to their wealthy parents (but the
children were already dead when the families received his phone call).
She now gives them a choice. They can deliver the man to the detective, who is
standing there with them, or they can take their own speedy revenge.
They argue among themselves and vote to kill him,
each in their own manner.
Baek has been listening to the whole proceedings thanks to speakers in his room.
The detective even explains to the parents how to use a knife more effectively.
What follows is a gruesome procession of torturers. By the end of the operation,
they have to dispose of a bucketfull of blood. In a rather comic scene,
the detective takes a group picture of the parents after Baek is dead.
They dig a grave in the woods.
Geum-ja shoots him in the face with her gun one last time before sealing the
grave. Then they celebrate the event in the bakery. Before leaving, they make
sure to give Geum-ja their bank account numbers so that the ransom money can
be returned to them (another darkly comic touch).
The final oneiric scenes are about Geum-ja's separation from her daughter.
First Geum-ja sees the killed boy who is now a grown-up man, and he sticks
his red marble ball in her mouth to shut her up. Then Jenny leaves her
Australian parents and, barefoot in her pajama, runs to hug her mother in
the street (it's still snowing).
Ssaibogeujiman Gwaenchana/ I'm a Cyborg but that's OK (2006) is a farcical Dada dance set in a mental asylum where a miniature humankind in disguise
is struggling to find the meaning of life. The plot is not a plot, and in
any events it is derailed by countless detours into the daydreaming, the mirages
of the mentally ill. If there is a plot, then it is a convoluted love story.
The film is also rich with iconic images.
A young woman, Young-goon, is a working in a factory next to an army to workers
who look exactly like her. They follow orders shouted by an invisible voice and
repeat mechanical movements to produce radios.
Fast forward and she's talking to a psychoanalyst about her condition.
She mentions that her trouble began when she was a child and went home with
a headache. Her mother was running a humble restaurant and was desperate because
her mother, Young-goon's granma, was going insane: eating radish all day long
and behaving like a mouse.
Back to the days of the factory, One day Young-goon misunderstands the
order to "cut the wrist" and cuts her own wrist and then inserts wires into
the wound and then plugs the wires into an electrical outlet.
She is hospitalized in a mental asylum. A fellow patient pushes her bed around
the floor, giving her a tour of the mad people, telling her the story of each
person's madness. When she recovers, she starts talking to all the electrical
devices, in particular to a vending machine, as if they are alive and can
understand her. She believes she is a cyborg.
A flashback shows her trauma when an ambulance took her granma away. She
jumped on her bicycle and ran after the ambulance because granma had forgotten
her dentures, indispensable for chewing the radish, but in vain.
The bicycle told her that she was a cyborg.
When she dines with the others in the cafeteria, she avoids the food and instead
recharges herself with batteries. A fat patient eats her meal.
At night she pulls out a radio with a very tall antenna and meditates.
Il-soon is the thief in the hospital. A ping-pong player accuses him of
stealing his ping-pong skills. Another one even accuses him of stealing her
memory. He confesses that he stole the day of thursday.
However, we also know that he secretely puts money in the vending machine so
that the vending machine can "reply" to Young-goon's voice by spitting out
She hides into a pendulum clock. A flashback shows her telling her mom that
she is a cyborg and her mom asking her to keep it a secret because it could
ruin the restaurant's business.
Another patient, Duk-cheon, lost his mind after he caused a deadly car accident.
He now only walks backwards, this way nobody can follow him.
One day the thief Il-soon steals granma's dentures that Young-goon still keeps
next to her all the time, determined to deliver them some day to granma.
He steals them to see if they confer the power to talk to the vending machine.
next to her all the time, determined to deliver them some day to granma.
When Young-goon realizes that they are gone, she gets desperate.
Il-soon's excuse is that his mother left him as a child and took all the
electrical toothbrushes (hence he obsessively brushes his teeth all the time).
Young-goon begs him to steal her sympathy. He does his best to turn her into
a vicious person. She in fact turns into a living machine gun, a killer machine... but it's only in her imagination.
In reality, she collapses to the floor because she hasn't eaten in days.
Meanwhile, the fat patient has acquired magic socks that, rubbed together,
should allow her to fly.
The doctors try to heal Young-goon's resistance to food with an electroshock
during which she has a vision of her granma who tries to tell her what the
meaning of life is.
Il-soon the thief explains that he used to be an electrical repairman until
he was caught stealing a motorcycle: the judge who sentenced him to prison
predicted that he would shrink to a dot.
Young-goon reminesces that she was born weak and spent her first days into
an incubators, raised by wires.
She turns again into a killer cyborg and exterminates almost everybody, but,
again, it is just a dream.
Another patient is a girl with a beautiful voice who looks at herself in the mirror.
She asks the thief to steal the fat woman's flying socks.
On the other hand, the fact woman asks the thief to steal the voice of the mirror girl and offers him the flying socks.
Young-goon still refuses to eat and is now force-fed through the nose.
Il-soon is horrified by how she has been treated and makes a scene.
He is then locked into a green room where he manages to communicate with
Young-goon. She dreams that a giant insect helps her fly away. In the dream
she meets granma and tries to finally give her the dentures but granma
actually doesn't want them.
When she wakes up, her mom comes to tell her that granma died.
Young-goon now realizes that her mom hid on purpose the dentures to avoid
that granma would continue to eat radish like a mouse in the hospital.
Il-soon dreams of kissing Young-goon.
Somehow Il-soon sneaks into her room and takes her to the basement, where
he pretends to open the battery door located in her back (he simply draws a
picture of it on her back) and pretends to insert a device that will convert
food into energy. He then takes her to the cafeteria and tells her to eat
food normally, promising that his device will transform the food into
the equivalent of battery energy. The whole cafeteria stops and watches,
repeating her movements as she tries to swallow a spoonful of rice.
When he succeeds and she swallows the food, the crowd erupts in a standing
ovation for him.
Back to the interview with the psychoanalyst, Young-goon tells her that
granma was listening obsessively to a radio that Young-goon herself had
built. Her mother was annoyed by the noise, destroyed the radio and calls
the ambulance that took granma away. As the ambulance was going away and
Young-goon was riding her bicycle behind it, granma tried to tell her the
meaning of life but again Young-goon couldn't grasp the words.
Young-goon now tells the doctor her secret, whispering it in her ear: she
is a cyborg.
Il-soon helps Young-goon to make sense of what granma's last words
(that have obviously haunted her ever since) and they conclude that granma was
warning her that she is an atomic bomb that needs
a bolt of lightning to detonate.
Il-soon and Young-goon leave the hospital in the middle of a storm, erect
a lightning rod (the antenna of her radio) and take shelter under a tent.
But Il-soon places the cork of a wine bottle on top of the lightning rod
to make sure that the experiment will fail.
The sun rises and a giant rainbow circles the sky.
After the vampire film Bakjwi/ Thirst (2009) and the
horror movie Paranmanjang/ Night Fishing (2011), entirely shot on the iPhone,
he turned to more conventional stories with
the psychological thriller Stoker (2013)
and The Handmaiden (2016), an adaptation of Sarah Waters' novel "Fingersmith" transposed to 1930s Japanese-occupied Korea.
The Little Drummer Girl (2018) was a television miniseries based on John LeCarre's novel.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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