The Movies: Violence and complicity

January 25, 2007

Hammertime

I wonder what Hitchcock would think of a filmmaker like Park Chan-Wook. The master of suspense played many a dirty moral trick on the audience, making viewers complicit in violence that they might never have copped to desiring. For instance, if say in Psycho, you thought a character a bad person who deserved punishment, you felt somewhat dirty and not a little guilty when they character then gets murdered as if you’d wished her this horrible fate. Or perhaps you didn’t, but Hitchcock certainly set up dilemmas like that in many of his films and I think few people get away from them without feeling like accomplices to something dirty at least once or twice.

Park Chan-Wook isn’t nearly as subtle. Watching his vengeance series will make you complicit in more than peripheral ways. You’re going to be confronted full scale with a million queries aobut vengeance and it’s worth, society’s manner of addressing crime and providing retribution; and you aren’t going to come out feeling dirty, you’ll be bloody as a pig butcher at the annual pork roast.

Suffice to say that after decades of progressively more graphic, realist, brutalist and extreme cinema, we’re all more than a little desensitized. The depictions of sexuality in mainstream cinema may not have advanced quite as far as that of violence, but I certainly know it felt a little pornographic to be so delighted to see a hammer buried in someone’s head while I was watching Oldboy. Anyway, I don’t really have a point here. Just throwing out some surface thoughts on the matter. If you have any opinions, do share them in the comments.

And if you haven’t seen Chan-Wook’s trilogy and have the stomach for quite a bit of gore, you should definitely check them out. They are infinitely thought provoking, totally entertaining, masterful, masterful works with delightful black humor and totally engrossing stories. I didn’t care that much for the first one, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, but Oldboy and Lady Vengeance are both must sees. That is all.

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One Response to “The Movies: Violence and complicity”

  1. from Bina007:

    Hey Flint, good to see you back. Apparently I can’t comment on your post coz I don’t have a wordpress account. To cut it short, and to sound pretentious: I think Park Chan Wook deals in the same currency as Shakespeare in Hamlet. It’s the difficulty of reconciling a Spanish style revenge drama with a Christian desire for forgiveness, closure and some sort of empathy. In Lady Vengeance, say, the lead character wants to organise a bloody revenge on behalf of all the agrieved parents. But she also wants a sort of redemption – note the final scene where she plunges her head into the viginal white tofu. The greatness of Hamlet is the tension between a rational humanism and our bloodier, more primitive lusts. This is the central tragedy and drama of modern life: to live in a our world of legal codes, political correctness and therapy, when at some base level all we really want to do is put the scissors in the neck of our aggressor.

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