Ponder picks: Oldboy

Park Chan-wook Oldboy: 2003

Park Chan-wook

Oldboy: 2003

This South Korean thriller questions the capabilities of criminal organizations. Oldboy, directed by Park Chan-wook, is claimed to be ranked among some of the greatest Korean films ever made. The premise of the movie originates from a series of volumes, depicting the living nightmare of its protagonist. In the film the main character, Oh Dae-su, is kidnapped and placed in solitary confinement for exactly fifteen years. With no knowledge of who his captors are or why they want him, Oh Dae-su thirsts for answers and expresses his insatiable desire for revenge.

 
-"If they had told me it was going to be fifteen years, would it have been easier to endure?"

-"If they had told me it was going to be fifteen years, would it have been easier to endure?"

Oh Dae-su’s initial reaction to his unanticipated confinement is nothing short of utter confusion and despair. Chan-wook strays from commonplace film tactics to display his characters’ emotions. Oh Dae-su’s screams for mercy radiate auras of sincere helplessness. In the opening prison scene, Oh Dae-su is framed through his feeding hole, lying on the floor. These long takes can be deemed similar to scenes from director, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. This style is seen regularly in the independent style of film-making. These conventions are used tactfully rather than just for visual appeal. The boots of Oh Dae-su’s anonymous prison guard are effective in their ability to provoke questions.  His new life is filled with never-ending confusion. This new experience has forever changed Oh Dae-su's dynamic on reality. From this point on, everything in Oh Dae-su’s life is monitored and controlled to a point where he is almost animal-like. Everything about this scene creates questions for both the protagonist and the audience.

 
-“Even though I’m no better than a beast, don’t I have the right to live?”

-“Even though I’m no better than a beast, don’t I have the right to live?”

Oh Dae-su’s only connections to the world outside of his miserable confinement are through the television his captors have so graciously granted him with. The television is important for the characterization of the film’s protagonists and other major characters. Over the course of fifteen years Oh Dae-su creates his form contact and affection through the programs he watches. His tendency to recite information from the television supports a perspective of time passed in his elongated sentence. Serving as a motif, the television symbolizes the captor’s control over Oh Dae-su’s feeble state-of-mind and his attempt to cling to any hope he has.

-"Laugh and the word laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone."

-"Laugh and the word laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone."

Despite the consequences, Oh Dae-su becomes exceptionally determined to escape his prison. His mark of fifteen years (Quite literately), renders his extensive preparation as useless. To his astonishment, Oh Dae-su wakes on a roof-top, free from any imposing threat. He is astonished by his freedom, but furious because he did not escape on his own. Ironically, Oh Dae-su’s hatred for his unknown captors intensifies with the gift of freedom. For the majority of Oldboy, Oh Dae-su strives to discover the motives behind his imprisonment. Oh Dae-su's hopes for vengeance are eventually dismissed by the horrors he never intends to discover. The compelling story of Oldboy leaves you with both satisfaction and wonder.

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