A couple of days ago I watched, I Saw the Devil, a Korean feature-film directed by Kim Jee-woon. I’ve been wanting to see this for quite a while because there are so many Korean films that are on my list of favorite movies. Some of them include, A Tale of Two Sisters, Memories of Murder, Mother, Oldboy, and many more. Despite my fondness for Korean cinema, I was hesitant to watch this movie at first because I’ve read on movie forums like IMDB about how violent this movie was. But after conjuring up the courage, I finally saw it. The story starts out on a frigid and snowy night, where a woman named, Jang Joo-yun (played by Oh San-ha) is driving idly along a desolate and eerie road. Due to the precarious weather, she has to stop on the side after her vehicle suffered a flat tire. After she takes a moment to calm down and regain her composure, she calls for an automotive repairman to head to where she is currently stranded and fix up her tire. Knowing that she would be stuck there for quite a while, she calls her fiancé with her cellphone, Kim Soo-hyun (played by Lee Byung-hun), who happens to be a National Intelligence Service agent, about her current predicament. As they casually converse with each other to pass the time, a middle-aged stranger named, Jang Kyung-chul (played by Choi Min-sik) parks his vehicle closely behind the woman’s car; too close for comfort. After the mysterious man gets out of his decrepit and sketchy looking van, he leisurely walks over to the woman’s car and introduces himself as a taxi driver.
Aodhan, Tall. A Look at Cinematography- I Saw the Devil. Digital image. A Look at Cinematography. WordPress, 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 4 Oct. 2016. <https://tallaodhan.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/a-look-at-cinematography-i-saw-the-devil/>.
Jang Kyung-chul asks the lady if she needed a ride since the road crew wouldn’t show up for a couple more hours. Feeling a bit unnerved and skeptical about his background, Jang Joo-yun politely shoos him away by telling Jang Kyung-chul that she was waiting for a repairman. After he walks away, the audience is given a brief moment of respite as the camera slowly pans to the woman in the car. At this point of the movie, I was beginning to zone out since I was watching this at 12 AM. Then out of the blue, the man who’s presumably a taxi driver, comes sprinting towards the front of her car and starts bashing her windshield and left side-window vigorously with a sharp hatchet. Jang Joo-yun fearfully tries to escape through the right side door, but the man knocks her out and drags her to his sanguinary and derelict hideout. I soon came to the realization that Jang Kyung-chul is actually a cold-blooded murderer. Once she wakes up from her comatose state, the woman begs the killer to spare her life by revealing to him that she’s getting married soon and that she’s pregnant. Jang Kyung-chul just stared back at her in a phlegmatic matter and raised the bloody hatchet in his callous hand. As the screen briefly fades to black, a resoundingly sharp thud echoes loudly. Jang Joo-yun is dead. After a couple of days pass, Kim Soo-hyun finds his fiancé’s dead body in a river in an attempt to find her. This discovery shook him to the core, and unfortunately ended up changing his outlook and moral compass. The rest of the movie follows his downward spiral as he sadistically seeks revenge on the person that killed the love of his life.
Smiles, CD. Picture of I Saw the Devil. Digital image. Listal, 14 June 2014. Web. 4 Oct. 2016. <http://www.listal.com/viewimage/7041271>.
Some of the first thoughts and feelings that were running through my mind (besides absolute shock) was how elegantly shot this film was in terms of cinematography. Each frame felt meticulously placed and really does a great job of accentuating emotional connotations that might be going on at any given scene. The aesthetically-pleasing camerawork was starkly juxtaposed with disturbingly repulsive themes such as, murder, rape, torture, and extremely graphic violence. It was shot so convincingly, that I had to pause at times and remind myself that this is just a movie. But this feeling didn’t last long once I started to think about how people in the world that we live in today actually commit atrocities like this. The acting was also exceptionally handled. There wasn’t any point in the movie where I felt that the dialogue felt forced or stilted, everyone was dialed in with regards to the roles that they played.
Z, Drako. Picture of I Saw the Devil. Digital image. Listal, 15 June 2012. Web. 4 Oct. 2016. <http://www.listal.com/viewimage/3838204>.
While I don’t want to say what explicitly happened at the end since I found it to be truly disturbing, I think it definitely leaves a lot of room for introspection, which isn’t something I’d normally say for movies centered around revenge and moral depravity. The ending of the movie begs the question, is revenge ever justifiable? While I can’t really give a definitive answer since I’m just stating an opinion, I honestly don’t think it’s ever a good course of action to make. I’m not going to lie, the thought of getting back at anyone who I felt wronged me in any given circumstance does feel gratifying at first. But by committing this act, I feel like I would be losing a lot of my humanity since I’d forever be questioning whether what I did was right or wrong; eternally living in state of guilt and self-condemnation.