Sunday, February 14, 2010

Memories of Murder

*South Korea*2003*Joon-ho Bong*129m*

A riveting comedy/police procedural/serial murder film. Set in the beautifully filmed Korean country side, it is based on a series of murders with rape of women which occurred between 1986 and 1992. The killings are depicted with a minimal sensationalizion. This very distance and objectivity serves to highlight the human tragedy. Crowds of curious onlookers gather at the sites of discovery and children scamper around nonchalantly in their pastimes. We see the bodies from afar, as they lie in the sunlit wheat fields. This lack of orchestration of response and clinical approach  lifts the film far above the  horror genre.

It is a humorous and canny account of the working of police departments which seems no different in South Korea. It is in the comic aspect that the films first strength lies. In the pair of detectives, the local Park and the Seoul-imported Seo we have a pair as funny as Thomson and Thomson. First it is the village moron who is implicated and thrashed into confessing to the crimes. The second time it is a factory worker who is driven to that point. Given the methods, anybody will confess to anything. A shaman is consulted and occult means are used to identify the killer. The rivalry of  the cops leads to bloody brawls and even the police-chief joins in. The press and public maintains continuous pressure and the police ends up as a complete laughing stock and object of indignation. Meanwhile, the toll continues. A mixture of the macabre and the ludicrous, and underlying balance of realism,  gives the film it's unique aesthetic flavor.

The period in which the film is set is when a military regime was giving way to an elected government. Riots, processions, air raid drills are the order of the day. A DNA sample has to be sent to the US and by the time it comes back, the situation changes completely. It is a society in a certain stage of transition.

At the end of all the humor, improbabilities and portrayal of police crimes, we have a powerful, compressed and authentic film which keeps you engrossed even till the last credit has disappeared.

Darcy Pacquets review


Seongyong Cho said...

TV news about that serial killing incident was part of my childhood. Whenever they said the police caught the murderer on TV, the news was reversed later. Or it was just simple murder case not connected with it at all. That went on and on until early 90's. It was left unsolved and this incident is now remembered now as one of small incidents in 80's by people like me older than 20.

Joon-ho Bong returned to Korean country side again with "Mother" last year. He still knows how to make us laugh or get tense. And police station still has dark, shabby room for suspects despite having been modernized after 20 years.

S. M. Rana said...

I really enjoyed this movie and it's most interesting that you were an "eye-witness". I'm looking forward to seeing Mother soon.