In the grand mosaic of world cinema, Park Chan-wook’s legacy is more than just a footnote; it is a symphony of storytelling. His journey is a testament to the potency of visual narrative, with a depth that transcends boundaries, Park’s cinematic influence is nothing short of remarkable. His foray into filmmaking began in 1992 with “The Moon Is… the Sun’s Dream.” Yet, it was the politically charged thriller “Joint Security Area” (2000), set amidst the turbulent demilitarized zone of the Korean peninsula, that announced his arrival. His academic background in philosophy lent a profound dimension to his work, a philosophical underpinning that would come to define his films.
Among his oeuvre, the “Vengeance Trilogy” is a crown jewel. “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” (2002) plunges us into the harrowing consequences of a father’s desperate quest for revenge, a narrative labyrinth where the boundaries of right and wrong blur. “Oldboy” (2003), a visceral tour de force, propels us into the depths of vengeance with an iconic one-take hallway fight that is as mesmerizing as it is brutal. The film claimed the Grand Prix at Cannes, catapulting Park into the international limelight. “Lady Vengeance” (2005) poetically explores the themes of revenge and redemption, completing the trilogy. These films, marked by intricate narratives and moral ambiguity, exemplify Park’s thematic mastery. Oldboy not only celebrated Korean cinema but inspired storytellers worldwide.
His narratives encourage artists to stretch the boundaries of their craft, to plumb the depths of the human experience. Genre boundaries blur in his hands, seamlessly melding thriller, drama, romance, and the supernatural. With the genre-fluid nature of his work inspiring fellow filmmakers to embrace complexity and ambiguity.
These films are not mere entertainment; they are profound reflections of humanity. His cinematic journey underscores the enduring power of storytelling and the limitless potential of the medium.
Based on the Japanese manga of the same name, the film tells the horrific tale of Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), a businessman who is inexplicably kidnapped and imprisoned in a grim hotel room-like cell for 15 years, without knowing his captor or the reason for his incarceration. Eventually released, he learns of his wife’s murder and embarks on a quest for revenge whilst also striking up a romance with a young, attractive sushi chef, Mi-do (Kang Hye-jung). He eventually finds his tormentor, but their final encounter will yield yet more unimaginable horrors…
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
A deaf mute, Ryu (Shin Ha-Kyun) saves all his hard-earned money for his sister who requires a kidney transplant. He has the wrong blood type to be able to donate one of his kidneys, so he arranges a trade with a group of black-market organ dealers: one of his kidneys and 10 million won in return for their finding a kidney for his sister. Just as the criminals renege on the deal, a legitimate kidney becomes available for transplant. Unfortunately, Ryu no longer has the 10 million won required for the hospital to perform the operation. In retaliation, he and his political activist girlfriend kidnap his former boss’s daughter – but events quickly spiral quickly out of control…
Geum-ja Lee (Yeong-ae Lee) is a young woman who works for underworld crime boss Mr Baek (Min-sik Choi). Taking the fall for the abduction and murder of a child, Geum-ja is sent to prison at the age of 19. When she realises that she has been framed by Mr Baek himself, she spends 13 years in prison planning her revenge. On her release, she exacts her vengeance against Mr Baek’s goons, before a final confrontation with the mentor who betrayed her.
Before Oldboy, before The Handmaiden, visionary filmmaker Park Chan-wook helmed this gripping tale of deceit, misunderstanding and the senselessness of war. Gunfire breaks out in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, leaving two North Korean soldiers dead while a wounded South Korean soldier (Lee Byung-hun, The Good, the Bad, the Weird) flees to safety. With the tenuous peace between the two warring nations on a knife-edge, a neutral team of investigators, headed by Swiss Army Major Sophie Jean (Lee Young-ae, Lady Vengeance), is dispatched to question both sides to determine what really happened under cover of darkness out in no-man’s land.
Adapted from Sarah Waters’ novel ‘Fingersmith’. Set in Korea in the 1930s, with the country under Japanese colonial rule, the film follows orphaned pickpocket Sook-hee (Tae Ri Kim) who is hired by a con artist posing as Japanese Count Fujiwara (Jung-Woo Ha) to act as the handmaiden of heiress Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim), a ploy which Fujiwara hopes will allow him to pocket the heiress’ wealth for himself. As Sook-hee tries to persuade Lady Hideko to fall for the Count she instead is the one who forges an intimate bond with her new employer. The story of Hideko’s troubled upbringing unfolds as the two women revel in their passionate, new relationship and explore their previously repressed desires.