Old Boy ushers in New Era

July 24, 2010 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Slick editing, slick editing, slick editing. Just as cricket coaches try and ingrain  “ground the bat” in batsmen, “slick editing” should be the Moolmantra for film makers. And if they ever wanted a lesson in editing ingenuity, OLDBOY, is the chef d’oeuvre in this field.

Infact, this masterful 2003 Korean cinematic piece, directed by Park Chan-wook, is much more than just a slickly edited film. Marvelous storytelling technique, that keeps you perched on the edge of your seats, even as it flips in and out of the present, great acting performances and themes that make you question the very ethos of the human kind.

The film begins with a man holding the arm of another man, who hangs precariously over the edge of a building. The man wants to tell a story, as his desperation to be heard, is hard to figure out from the emotionless face. As the man begins to tell his story, the movie cuts to 15 years back, when a drunken man (Oh Dae-su), disappears as his friend attends a call. Dae-su wakes up to find himself in a hotel room, with no exits, except a narrow slot through which he is fed fried dumplings for each meal. Every now and then, a mysterious gas enters the room and puts Dae-su to sleep.

The time spent by Dae-su inside the hotel room, is probably the most amazing sequence of the entire movie. Dae-su seems to undergo the five stages of grief- denying that this is happening to him, trying to fight his way out with the captors, trying to negotiate his way out, going silent for months together and finally indulging in rigorous physical training to prepare himself for revenge, when he is out. He learns during his stay, that his wife was murdered, he is the main culprit and his daughter has been sent to a foster home, fueling his rage. As his plan to dig his way out, using a chopstick, nears fruition, he finds himself on a roof and the movie comes back to the first scene.

And then begins the frenetic search for the answers to “who” and “why”. Keep a man in captivity for 15 years, with the same dish for every meal, and sexual stimulation through state sponsored television programs, and you are bound to see the primal behavior of homo sapiens unleashed. As he devours a raw Octopus and unleashes himself on the girl who rescued him from an accident (Mi-do), it becomes hard to make black and white distinctions between the heroic and villainous part. Dae-su and Mi-do, in the meanwhile, come closer to each other, culminating in a sexual encounter. Even though a love bond seems to develop between the two, Dae-su still looks distant and oppressive towards her.

By a series of incidents, Dae-su finally finds the perpetrator (Woo-Jin), who just tells him, that he was punished because “You talk too much” and gives him 5 days to find the answer “Why” , now that he knows “Who” did it to him. It turns out that Dae-Su had spread a rumor about the pregnancy of Woo-Jin’s sister(Soo-ah) after seeing Woo-Jin and Soo-ah make out, leading to the suicide of Soo-ah. As the film cuts to the suicide scene, where Woo-Jin has to let go of Soo-ah , the audience is thrust into this schizophrenic avatar, as they switch from sympathy to disgust for Dae-su, but still not condoning the actions of Woo-Jin.

Woo-Jin reveals that Mi-do is actually the daughter of Dae-su and he had hypnotized Dae-su and triggered a series of events to coerce him into this incestuous relationship (unbeknown to Dae-su and Mi-do), as a revenge for Dae-su outing Woo-jin’s own incestuous relationship with his sister. As Dae-su offers his tongue in return for Woo-jin keeping this a secret from Mi-do, the transformation of Woo-jin from a villain to a semi-hero is complete, as he accepts the offer. Woo-jin asks Dae-su “My sister and I actually loved each other, knowing our relationship. Can you two do the same?”, as a bloodied and teary Dae-su merely looks on. His revenge complete, Woo-jin commits suicide himself.

The director has chosen an open and ambiguous ending, as Dae-su goes to the same hypnotist, asking for help to forget the secret. We never find out if Dae-su has actually forgotten the secret. A clichéd and set ending would have belied the character of the movie. The open ending makes you think deeper about the character traits of Dae-su.

There are quite a few grotesque scenes in the movie, but I found the scenes purposeful and making a statement of their own. Special shout out to the corridor fighting scene, which reminds you of Street Fighter video game. I saw the movie as a cross between Saw, Requiem for a Dream and Matrix, in terms of the impact it leaves on the viewer’s mind.

Sanjay Gupta tried to do a reprise in Bollywood. I shudder at the very thought of how he would have handled the incest part of the story, but withstanding that too, filmmakers should learn that masterpieces are not meant to be replicated. That’s because they can’t be replicated.

Genre : Thriller, Pathbreaking

Rating : Palme d’Or material

Go watch it with : Your AOE buddies (or is there a new game making the waves today, reemphasizing how old I have become)

Go watch it for : A cinematic treat

Oldboy

Oldboy

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1 Comment

  1. Sunil said,

    just one word for the movie WEIRD

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