Tuesday 22 November 2011

Incest, imprisonment and revenge

When I last did a post on a Japanese film, a reader, A. J. Poliquit commented: "Films from the Far East are slow and calming with memorable music." Having AJ's comment in mind and the backdrop of the movies that I have already watched, I sat down to watch the Korean film, Oldboy. The film was definitely slow (in the beginning) but not calming.

The protagonist is locked up in a cell for 15 years, without knowing why he is locked up. I had tremendous difficulty in following those parts as I was completely oblivious to what was going on with him. It almost seemed that along with the protagonist, even I was perplexed and confused. The film's narrative was also a bit confusing as it went back and forth between what happened before, during and after the 15 years of imprisonment. In fact, one had to pause, go ahead and then resume the movie, in order to understand the narrative scheme and the plot. Movies like this one, though keep me glued, exasperate me.

It is after some time that one realises that the imprisonment is an act of revenge for something that happened in the past involving the protagonist and two other individuals who were students of the same school. When I came to this part, I understood the title of the film (Ahhhhhhhhhhh. A long sigh). It is after this part that the movie gets exciting. What's next? What's next?

Then the story rapidly moves forward with shots of the past cradling the present. A tale of incest is revealed. After sitting through all this, one is left wondering about the different nuances of life, relationship, crime and emotions. The film is definitely a thriller and it thrills you in different ways sometimes leaving you with a bitter taste.

The film has some distasteful scenes. Let me mention two. In one scene, the protagonist eats a live octopus and in another he chops off his own tongue. 

This film from the Eastern world shook my sensibilities and I am short of words when it comes to praising the craft of the director, Park Chan-wook.

Watch the film if you can digest incest, imprisonment and revenge sprinkled with some gory scenes.

So, what kind of films do you like watching? Will you watch Oldboy, if given a chance?

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet


  1. I think I would watch Oldboy because I am a movie buff. Despite what you say Susan I am curious about this film. Thank you for sharing.


  2. I don't think I could watch it although my curiosity is stirred. I do love a good thriller, right now I'm on a jag of watching old tv shows. Maybe because I don't have to think? <3

  3. No, I wouldn't watch it ever. I prefer comedy, romance and mystery movies any day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
    p.s. You were awarded Lovely blog award on Memoirs :) congrats

  4. No I think I will pass this one : ) Cannot digest the things you listed - thanks for the warning Susan : )

  5. I like to watch foreign films, Susan. Have to think about this one because it does seem to be quite disturbing. But then again how will I know if I haven`t watched it?

  6. I would be bored with slow paced movie, I like comedy,romance and thriller which thrills.
    Well, you seemed to have enjoyed which is improtant.

  7. I think I will it a try..I love romantic and soft movies..but will see this one,thank u for sharing Susan.

  8. You have found your niché brilliant review!

    Go forth and do some more


    BlogNostics Founder

  9. Seen the Indian (understand watered down with lot of item songs) version of the film starring Sanjay Dutt and John Abraham. I think the title was Zinda..

  10. Did you know they made a Hindi-language remake of this movie called Zinda, starring Sanjay Dutt and John Abraham? They kept the stylised ultra-violent approach but did away with the incest in the storyline. I watched Oldboy four years ago right after watching Zinda actually and was very fascinated by it. Makes you wonder how the world really isn't black and white at all. Also, how every act in the past can have far-reaching consequences.

    Korean films are excellent I think and they can be very radical and their ideas brash and new. Also the violence is real, in the sense it has consequences. Much more so than Hollywood's flashy entertaining "action movies" actually. There's another movie called Bad Guy by acclaimed Korean director Kim Ki Duk. I've seen it twice now and it takes a while to digest. It challenges you like a moral dilemma, makes you wonder who can be called a bad guy and who cannot.

    I must say, new Korean films and old Japanese ones are quite something to keep an eye out for.

  11. wow this sounds intense...i like something that shakes me...will check this one out...

  12. This sounds intense. Mind you i'd probably cut my tongue off if i'd just eaten an octupus, ugh

  13. hi! i remember watching the Hindi version a few years ago and it totally sucked. Havent got around to watching the original yet. But the premise is intriguing...how far would one go to avenge childish injuries? the point of being (becoming ) an adult is to know when to let go and concentrate on life on the present. this film shows us what happens when we dont.

  14. Oh my, I don't remember saying that. Hmmm how could I have generalized Asian films?! :) I guess I haven't been watching too many of them. I'm usually attracted to quiet films (not silent, ok? haha), so perhaps they're all I know.

    Having said that, I think I'll sit this one out. :) Disturbing scenes really do disturb me, based on your description! Although the non-linear narrative is a storytelling technique that fascinates me. So perhaps that could make me reconsider.

    Nice to read a film review in your blog though, Mrs Sus! The most interesting people are the ones that are most interested in many things. And you are!

  15. OldBoy was an experience,I'll never forget...the first movie in which I saw (accidental)incest depicted.Over the years,some other movies shocked me like 'Angels and Insects','Daniel and anna' with themes around consensual incest.I try to understand the depths of human depravity via cinema,as to what could possess a man like Josef Fritzl but sometimes I just cannot understand:-/

    Korean,Japanese and some chinese movies are a genre in itself,they quite stomach churning compared to hollywood.Definitely not for the tender hearted.

    If you liked Oldboy,u probably would like 'I saw the devil' from Jee-woon Kim and 'Kokuhaku' (Confessions) in which believe it or not,the revenge seeking protagonist is a teacher;D

  16. Some of the best films I have seen have been ones where you have to sit through quite a lot of juggling to get to a point where you start to understand and it all fits into place. They tend to be films with subtitles too. I often wonder whether it's the double strength concentration you need to take in the film as well as the words that makes it harder to understand but also when it clicks makes it so much clearer. Sounds like a film that if you can stomach certain parts would be worth watching.

  17. no no way ... definitely not a movie I would see...seeing the subject matter would just stir up my own stuff..thanks for the review...As always...XOXOXOO

  18. Susan...I can 'deal with' crime (in a movie), and live-squid-dinner (They do that in Korea!)...BUT a man cutting off his own tongue--or anybody's tongue, for that matter--will keep me away from the lengthy box-office lines
    under this marquee.

    Also, thanks to your review, I don't have to 'see' it now--grin!

    BTW, you are reviewer par excellence! Seriously, is that a side income for you? Right there in Indie you could hook up with the world's largest-circulation paper.

    Hey, ya see? I'm still here. And so are you! Hope your 'new life' is gratifying and satisfying!

    Love and PEACE always, Dear Susan!

  19. I enjoy a variety from Yoga to dark.... Depends what my mood is in for. However I would watch this... Personalities interest me..
    Great Review Susan

  20. LOL @ me searching like a junkie for your post a comment button just to leave a comment that you will probably shake your head at anyway.

    I must find this movie so I can watch it. I love foreign films, it is a foreign film right? To me anyway... If it's difficult to follow, that is a plus to me. I can't tell you how let down I get being able to watch movies and know the entire plot within the first few minutes. I am not fun to watch a movie with because I go from ooo to ugh as soon as I get it. Everyone else tells me to not speak a word then at the end I', like "I knew it."

    Thanks for writing about it, I will see if I can find it and let you know how I liked it.

  21. Dear Susan, I admit being perhaps not intellectual enough, but when choosing films, I go for something either esthetically beautiful, for something lighthearted or funny, or romantic comedies. Just something that makes me feel good. Once in a while I enjoy dramas, those that describe something powerful, but often I only like it if I can relate to the plot.
    Thus I woudl probably not watch Oldboy, as it seems disturbing and dark.;))
    Have a great week dear friend,

  22. Hi Susan .. I do find some films very challenging - I go to the film society ones - as I know they're of high value .. some even of those I miss out on - just not into the dark type. This doesn't entice me - though it would show the culture of Korea a bit - and the thought of being locked up with no lifeline at all is very daunting .. not for me .. but interesting to read about ..

    Cheers to you - Hilary

  23. I don't think I'd chose to watch it. Though I like serious themes I prefer suspense, psycho-thrillers (if there is such a category), romance, comedy and sometimes I like children's movies. I'm not fond of gore.

    This one does sound like something that perks interest, so I guess if I started it, I would see it to the end.

  24. Your review is very well-written, but the movie reviewed does not appeal to me at all.

    I'm like Zuzana in this matter - prefer something esthetic and lighthearted.

  25. I have trouble following some movies, especially if they are in an unframiliar langugae :-)
    Was that your problem? :-O

  26. I wouldn't watch Oldboy. I do love foreign films but I'll give this one a miss.

    My favourite types of films ? Very similar to what Zuzana and Duta said. Oh, and I can't stand Bollywood.

  27. I watch all good movies , I like watching foreign movies ..

    I dont get time to see many films these days , dont get the time at all .. bollywood somehow is not my cup of tea its the same story everywhere ...

    Thanks for sharing this one


  28. definitely not my favourite genre so i don't think i could watch this one; but i like watching good foreign movies.

    what a brilliant review, susan dear!

    hope you're having a great weekend!

    big hugs!
    betty xx

  29. Actually, I think I would watch "Oldboy." I don't mind gore at all, and the movie sounds like it has various psychological elements in it, so it would definitely keep my interest. I'm not going to break down any doors to go and find this movie, but if I should come across it, I'll give it a shot!

    I am a foreign film junkie, and I'm especially intrigued by films where I don't understand the language and I have to read the subtitles. That makes quite a number of languages! There's something about the characters speaking in a tongue I don't understand that heightens the mystery for me, and makes the film all the more alluring.

    That was a fantastic movie review, Susan. Thank you for sharing it with us. I'll keep my eye open...

    Wishing you a happy Sunday,

  30. no. I cannot digest incest, or rape or any of those crimes. Two of my favorite movies (I hardly ever watch one so my choices are 20 years old at times) The Accussed and Dead Man Walking involve rape. It is very disturbing to watch reason why both of those movies are sitting on my tabke after buying them recently. I don't think I can digest them now

  31. Hey Susie!
    I would definitely not watch it! Because its disturbing and i certainly prefer movies like 'When Harry met Sally!' and 'Vantage Point'(two different genres there, but equally exciting for me) :P... so you get my drift right :)
    On another note, i love your blog and its layout! :) and how you sign off!! indeed, Joy always! :)



  32. I love funny movie with great story.

  33. Rimly:

    Thanks for this comment.



  34. Sulekkha:

    Thanks for your appreciation,d ear Sulekkha.


    Pass it on :)

  35. Nelieta:

    You're right. Foreign films give us a peek-a-boo into another world.


    Of course, if something keeps us hooked, then it it the one.

  36. Alpana:

    You're welcome Alpana.


    Ha Ha. Let me see.

  37. Harish:

    Indian version?!?!? I bet they would have messed it up, as always. You should see the original. Mind boggling.


    No, I wasn't aware of the Hindi one. Yes, Korean movies are very state of the art. I have watched many Kim Ki Duk's films and they are so unique and disturbing. I have downloaded "Bad Guy" and should watch it when time permits.

  38. Brian:

    Please do check it out. I shall mail some more titles as well.


    Please don't do bizzare things, Larry.

  39. Ganesh Puttu:

    You should watch the original. You will be zapped.


    Thanks for your warm compliments. I'm smiling from ear to ear.

  40. Arumugam:

    I have marked all the movies that you have listed here and will watch them when time permits. And you're right when you say, "not for the tender hearted." Life in its crudest form is depicted in these films. I wonder how they do it. It's an art.


    I agree when you say that SJ. And, yes, the subtitles too.

  41. Bongo:

    Hmmmm. Lotsa love back to you.


    Steve, perfectly agree with your views. Not a side-income, sadly.
    The new life is chugging along, of course, with some bumps here and there but by far, okay.

  42. Savira:

    Grab this one.


    Ha Ha. LOL.
    Please do find it and watch it. You will be thrilled.

  43. Zuzana:

    Nothing to do with being intellectual, Zuzana.
    For each his own.

    Love you lots.


    And this is a film society one. Yes, one can see the Korean backdrop and their cultural psyche.

  44. Myrna:

    This is not entirely gore. It also can be called a psycho-thriller. You must try seeing it sometime, Myrna.


    Thanks for your words of appreciation. Light-hearted is the best bet when one does not want to be troubled with the dark.

  45. GQ:

    Subtitles make it easy GQ. BUt nothing like knowing the original language. But when there are so many languages, only subtitles come to our rescue.


    Bollywood! We can give it a BIG miss.

  46. Bikramjit:

    Welcome here. I have seen you many times in many other blogs I follow. Ah, Bollywood is only froth. SOme other Indian films are much better.

    And, you're welcome.


    Thanks for coming by and warming me, dear Beety, with your words.

    The weekend was good. Thanks. I wish you a fantastic week ahead.

  47. Nevine:

    I was thinking that you would like this one. It would definitely appeal to your attitude of peeling the layers and finding what lies beneath.
    I wish you a wonderful week ahead, dear Nevine.


    Our preferences also vary with time. I wouldn't have watched Oldboy some years ago.

  48. Kajal:

    Ah, romantic and wide-eyed kajal, I ofcourse knew your taste.
    Welcome to the Meanderings. What joy to have you here.
    Thanks for liking my blog and the following. Greatly appreciated.


    Funny movies are definitely good for the well-being of us. Welcome here and thanks for penning your thoughts :)

  49. I remember watching the Bollywood version a few years ago. The concept was refreshingly thrilling. The treatment was not as bad as some people are making it out to be. Keeping Bollywood standard in mind, I wsould say it was rather good. But of course, original is original. I will try and watch it someday. By the way, Susan, I got a chance to see this romantic comedy called "My Sassy Girl" (Korean). It was fantastic! Do watch it if you have not seen it, already!

  50. Suraj:

    Glad to hear a different version from you about teh hindi version of the original. Sometimes we are so blinded by the world movies that we cannot appreciate even worthwhile stuff that Bollywood doles out to us.
    You must watch the original.
    And, I have watched "Sassy Girl."



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