wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)
If you think you saw it all with Kill Bill, think again. Old Boy is not meant for the weak hearted. Brace yourself for a vicious and sadistic revenge narrative that will only allow you to sit back for a moment. A moment to consider and question once the end credits roll. The performances are intense and absorbing, letting you sink into the gruesome force of the film. Old Boy is a must-watch because it uses violence to highlight emotions and not merely for shock value.Read more
How many times have you heard the phrase, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”? How cold do you think? Think deeply, about just how cold revenge can get. If you multiply that into 10, you’ll get the essence of Park Chan-wook’s Old Boy. A South Korean film that gained popularity after winning the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, Old Boy will take you on a visual expedition where you’ll flinch, cover your eyes and stare in awe at the impact of vengeance.
Old Boy is the second installment of the vengeance trilogy, by Park Chan-wook, the other two being Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The film revolves around Oh DeaSu (Choi Min-sik) who is imprisoned for 15 years, with no plausible reason that he could comprehend. He finds himself in a maze of conspiracies once he is unexpectedly released. His aim, then, is to seek revenge with the person behind the brutal captivation.
This is about 10 percent of the film. It has a gripping plot, that pulls the film forward, but the true beauty of Old Boy lies in how the film deals with human emotions when put in extreme situations. It makes you question who gives us the authority to punish, how far would someone go to seek revenge- Physical Torture? Solitary confinement? Death? And the most important question of all- Does revenge really liberate you from the pain of a horrible incident?
Without any answers, Old Boy incorporates a rigid mission with DeaSu and explores all those questions. You can sense his desperation. He moves between a series of emotions: anger, trepidation, regret, despair. And you move through these emotions with him. But behind all the violence, you aren't meant to lose faith in humanity but to question the depths of human destruction and witness the way in which we rise back.
You can notice the similarities that Old Boy shares with films like Kill Bill and Fight Club. But it stands out because along with letting you enjoy the triumphant violence and behavioral patterns of a desperate person put in absurd circumstances, it manages to outsmart your notions without losing momentum. With the use of rapid camera movements, mood music at the right points and coloured lighting, you feel like you’re a part of a ferocious video game with that added bonus of intellectual stimulation.
The three-disc collector’s edition of Old Boy has some remarkable features, including five behind the scene documentaries, a couple of deleted scenes that are equally exciting and interviews with the cast and crew. There’s also a 3-hour documentary called the ‘Autobiography of Old Boy’ that discusses the making of the film. The most interesting bit of the DVD is a small featurette titled ‘Le Grand Pix at Cannes’ that captures the response at the Cannes.
Old Boy is not a revenge epic; it does not place any judgments, and yet I can guarantee you’ll end the film with a few conclusions of your own. Maybe that wasn’t the motive of the film. Maybe it was just meant to be a stylized, aggressive depiction of revenge and its effect on people. As the cliché goes, you’ll get all that and much more.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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