Geum-ja (Lee Young-ae), a beautiful girl who cannot help but
draw attention from all the men around her, becomes a public
figure of notoriety when she is arrested and charged for the
abduction and murder of a six year-old boy, at the age of
only nineteen. Being so young and pretty, her horrific crime
obsesses the media. They are shocked when Geum-ja confesses,
and is sent to prison on a long-term sentence;
now, 13 years have passed and in that time, Geum-ja has been
the most hardworking and model prisoner, earning the nickname
Geum-ja, however, has not been idle during her time inside.
For 13 years, she has plotted revenge against her former teacher,
Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik). Her kindness while in “the
joint” has paid off and has now gained her many friends
and allies. Now that Geum-ja is getting out of jail, she is
ready to put her carefully conceived plan into action, abetted
by some of her former inmates.
call her the ‘Kind-hearted Geum-ja’. Barely some
could remember she was given another nickname - “The
Witch”. She has done some terrible things. But as it
was justifiable and so they celebrated her like a redeemed
angel. And they wished nothing but the best for her.
Guem-ja, to justify is everything. Justification has been
on her mind for the past thirteen years she has been committed
away for a crime she didn’t do. It was true she was
responsible in some ways that their hostage died. The hostage
was five, and it was thirteen years ago. To the nation, Guem-ja
was a cruel kidnapper and a savage murderer, but to her friends,
she was their ‘Kind-hearted Geum-ja’.
returned after her prison stint, she was a changed person.
Everyone she knew commented how she was so different back
then and how sweet and loving Guem-ja had been. Some even
asked her, ‘What with the red eye shadow?’ This
newly released Guem-ja was unfeeling, uninterested and unkind.
It hit them that all that thirteen years; Guem-ja was only
helping them with an ulterior motive.
Park Chan Wook wowed the Cannes in 2004 with ‘Old Boy’,
winning the Grand Prix. His lust for vengeance and violence
literally blew me away with the film’s social offensive,
yet engaging storytelling and cinematography. Park Chen Wook
who was a philosophy major often questions his characters’
desecrating integrity while losing oneself in self-righteous
and self-justification, not to mention ours too. Too long
we have been living in oppression, humiliation and self-loathing
when we had been taken advantages of. Fearing negative repercussions
and ramifications, we suffered in morbid silence, with our
antagonists scot-free and guiltless. Park Chan Wook’s
manifestation of paying back in an insane hybrid of violence
and style are both intoxicating and delicious to experience.
His characters played out what we didn’t dare to do
– to lay destruction upon their wake to their enemies.
latest installment, his third ‘revenge’ feature
reunites us not only with Lee Yeong-ae that he made famous
from ‘Joint Security Area’ (2000), but with every
other characters from all his two other movies like ‘Sympathy
for Mr. Vengeance’ (2002) and ‘Old Boy’
(2003). The enigmatic Choi Min-sik who was last seen as the
raging monster seeking lex talionis, returned as Guem-ja’s
adversary. Famous Korean stars Song Kang-oh and Shin Ha-kyun
(Both from Mr. Vengeance and JSA) also make their blink-and-you-will-miss
‘Old Boy’ where Oh Dae-su scoured to justify his
confinement, while trying to put together the pieces of helter-skelter
memories and information, Guem-ja had everything planned out
and played out meticulously in her mind like fine clockwork
during her imprisonment. She knew exactly what to anticipate,
how to execute and considered all possibilities to intensify
her vengeance. Unlike Oh Dae-su’s baleful rummage into
his peril, Guem-ja wants everything to be beautiful; she buys
her time and waits for the perfect opportunity to strike.
Unlike Oh Dae-su’s journey to revelation, Guem-ja seeks
for Lady Vengeance’ develops through compelling cinematography
with subtle metaphors contrasting their turbulences –
Guem-ja wiped away her signature red eye shadow after Mr.
Baek’s death, signifying her war is over, the prisoners’
comforting dreams, the blackened cake Guem-ja baked for the
parents after their self-administered justice to symbolize
their unbecoming, or that the boy she kidnapped materialized
into an adult, gagged her apologies and exited with a smile,
encouraging Guem-ja to outgrow her guilt and that she was
less action-filled and restrained visual shock compared to
‘Old Boy’, Park Chan Wook showed that he matured
as a storyteller and as a director with ‘Sympathy for
Lady Vengeance’, with a strong remorseless direction
and a more credible ending this time round. Park Chan Wook
have complete his trilogy of vendetta, proving him an intelligent
filmmaker whose productions dissect boldly in the edges of
moral, ethic, philosophy, art and violence, rising as one
of Asia’s finest director.
movie is presented in Korea Dolby Digital 2.0 with a 16 X
9 Widescreen with Chinese and English subtitles. After watching
the show in utter confusion with its translation from the
Chinese subtitles just five minutes into it, I had to switch
to the English subtitles. It felt right this time.
DVD RATING :
by Ang Wei Kiat