This week’s Film Friday features the infamous Korean thriller, ‘Oldboy’. Praised for its quirky approach to the thriller genre and unique narrative structure, Oldboy has developed an indie status amongst global audiences. If you haven’t seen Oldboy, I wholly recommend it as an brutally creative introduction into Korean cinema.
This fantastic film, directed by Park Chan-Wook, was released in cinemas in 2003. Twelve years later it is still considered one of, if not the best, Korean films to date! In a romantic sense, the film strays away from generic thriller conventions and becomes a classical tragedy. Originally based on a Japanese manga, Oldboy has since been adapted by Hollywood in 2013 but hasn’t received the same acclaim as the Korean original.
Motivated by revenge, the protagonist Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-sik), seeks to wreak havoc on the person who imprisoned him for fifteen long years. Oh Dae-Su is kidnapped on the night of his daughter’s birthday from an unknown captor only to be released fifteen years later delivered back into society in a large suitcase. Oh Dae-Su meets an unexpected companion, a female sushi chef Mi-do (Hye-jeong Kang), in a scene where he consumes an entire octopus with his bare hands. The actor proves commitment to his craft as the scene contains zero CGI. Choi Min-sik tears through the still-alive octopus with his bare teeth, ripping at the head, its tentacles and suckers smothering his dead-pan face. It is a cinematic image you will never forget. Oh Dae-Su’s female counterpart is introduced in this scene and surprisingly allows the tortured, unhinged stranger into her life. The two evolve beautifully into a tragic double team. This inexplicable attempt at salvation is the strong point for the entire film. You seem to forget the violence and immerse yourself into the transformation of the two main characters.
Oldboy has won 28 awards in a total of 49 global nominations! It won Best Foreign Independent Film at the 2004 British Independent Film Awards, the Grand Prix Award (the second best award) at Cannes Film Festival in 2004. Closer to home, it won Best Director, Best Actor (Choi Min-sik) and Best Supporting Actress (Kang Hye-jung) at the 2004 Blue Dragon Film Awards.
Check out the trailer below and I guarantee you will want to watch the whole thing. If not, I will eat my hat (or in spirit of the film, a live octopus).