Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
The film follows the story of one Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), who is locked in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing his captor's motives. When he is finally released, Dae-su finds himself still trapped in a web of conspiracy and violence. His own quest for vengeance becomes tied in with romance when he falls for an attractive sushi chef.
One of the most common themes of the History of Films is vengeance. The revenge story of Oh Dae-su is quite universal and can easily be retraced with early film noirs. Director Park Chan-wook, the South Korean master, decided to name his vengeance trilogy when in an interview he was asked why his films were all about revenge. Oldboy being the second film of the third while Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance are respectively the first and third chapters. The films are linked together by the theme but not in story. This brutal depiction of one of the most original and entertaining story of the last decade has made this title a cult classic.
Park’s film depicts how a simple plot of revenge can be multileveled and filled with great human pain. It is a violent film and Asian filmmakers are not afraid to use lots of body mutilations. Their use of violence in thrillers is more common and it doesn’t need to be horror to have some gore into it. No restraint is done and we have a feeling that the vision of Park is true and not altered in any way.
So, at moments it is difficult to gaze at the images but the rhythm and the editing of the film makes it fresh and fun. Added to that, the violons of Vivaldi and other classical music makes the violence seem even more brutal yet beautiful. Based on a manga, this story as something very graphic novel about it and there’s a Quentin Tarantino touch or approach to the whole visual style. The later was on the jury at the Cannes festival and pushed for Oldboy to get the Grand prize. Tarantino was a great admirer of this film and it is with no surprise.
When a movie is hard to compare to another one it is almost always a good sign of an original picture that will left his mark in the History of movies. Oldboy can be categorized as a batshitcrazy film that deserves all the recognition it received. Having watch it more than ten years after its initial release I can not kick myself enough to not having seen this elegant yet violent tale of revenge that will leave a clear mark into my cinephile mind.