Jul 18, 2011

When Seeing the Devil is Not a Matter of Good Versus Evil

I Saw the Devil
(2010) Directed by Jee-woon Kim
Starring Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi and Gook-hwan Jeon


It was an incongruous pairing for me this weekend: Jim Hensen's muppets and a Korean film depicting gory revenge. After previewing Hensen's charming eight minute exploration on resisting time (at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria), my buddy Airplane and I took in the last film showing offered in the museum's theater. I Saw The Devil is most certainly not a sight for Miss Piggy. Or for kermit.


If one takes Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment to the next level it might be close to this movie. At the outset I knew it would be bloody and disturbing. The first few minutes is a graphic abduction and beheading of the protagonist's fiancĂ©.


Protagonist may be too strong of a word. The film calls into question the concept of villain and hero. The narrative runs revenge style. Man kills man's love so man seeks out to destroy man. The movie takes us on this horrific journey but twists it to the extent that at the end we are not sure who is good or who is bad.


Neither apologetic nor dogmatic, director Jee-woon Kim's impeccably filmed story of sadism and torture is not a movie for the faint of heart. Hoping to rest on a human ending, this tale ends with questions disturbingly left unanswered about man's inhumanity to man. 


Revenge is bad is the film's mantra. The typical good versus evil movie usually ends with evil overturned by  the good. Not this movie. [spoiler alert] While evil does get vanquished by the plot's end, so does good.


It seems to me after a couple of hours of maiming, blood lust, and chopped up corpses, all we are left with is the question why?


The gist seems to be a Chinatown agendum where the path down the rabbit hole leads to only one place: a seizing, inescapable void.


C-


Image credit: filmdeviant 
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