Monday, August 6, 2012

Park Chan-wook in Hollywood, and the Vengeance Trilogy

Bora Kim is from Korea and is currently living in Melbourne, where she is in her final year at Monash University studying Communication. Bora is part of this year's KOFFEE Team and has written an entry about Park Chan-wook and the Korean Wave in Hollywood for the KOFFIA Blog. Read more after the jump.

Park Chan-wook, the director of the Vengeance Trilogy – Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003) and Lady Vengeance (2005) – is a perfect example of the Korean wave expanding to the West. The trilogy was a stunning block of work that propelled Korea forward to take the lead in world cinema, turning Park into an internationally recognised filmmaker. Throughout the trilogy, his interpretation of revenge is portrayed through different logics, where the motives of his characters revolve less around punishment and payback, and more through the chance of forgiveness.

Recently, Park Chan-wook was able to take his unique style and talent to Hollywood, where he worked on his first English language movie Stoker, which will be released in March of 2013. As far as I’m concerned, Park is quickly becoming a shining star in the international film scene, with bundles of talent and I can’t wait to see his big debut in Hollywood.

Although it was J.S.A: Joint Security Area (2000) that shot Park Chan-wook to fame in his native country of South Korea, many in the West recognised him for his film Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002). It was the first of Park’s films to gain a DVD release in the UK and Ireland. This famous film followed the story of a deaf, green-haired mute and his attempt to kidnap the daughter of his former boss to use as ransom in order to pay for his sister’s kidney transplant. The plot follows the men’s pursuit for revenge, with both of them bent on avenging the contingent deaths of their loved ones. The movie was often criticised for its excessive violence, but it showed Park’s determination to create something realistic and true to itself.

His second movie in the Vengeance trilogy, Oldboy, assured Park Chan-wook an international cult following. The movie follows the plot of Oh Dae-Su who has been imprisoned without reason for 15 years by an unknown captor. When he is finally released, he is determined to find the man who put him behind bars and why. In this film, the present in which Dae-su seeks revenge is profoundly shaped by his unforgettable and traumatic past, which he struggles to overcome. I won’t talk about this movie any further as it will be screened at KOFFIA 2012, so check out the film’s trailer now.

The third and final film of the trilogy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, follows the story of a Lee Geum-ja, who is imprisoned for a crime she did not commit. Geum-ja seeks revenge on the true murderer, who blackmailed Geum-ja to take the blame for his crime and kidnapped her daughter.

I could sit here all day and tell you everything that is great about Park Chan-wook’s films, but the only way to truly understand and enjoy his films would be to experience them firsthand. His films have a way of making you emotionally invested in the story drawing your empathy towards the characters. So I highly recommend everyone to watch Park’s Vengeance trilogy and the rest of his films if you have the chance.

- Bora Kim

Catch Park Chan-wook's cult classic Oldboy this year at KOFFIA for an unforgettable cinematic experience.  

Visit our website for more information about the festival and the films in this year's program!

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