Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 7: I Saw The Devil

Today I will be sharing Kim Jee-Woon’s 2010 film *I Saw the Devil* a South Korean movie that’s probably more in the revenge thriller genre, but here we are regardless. This is a film that has been on my list since it was released. After Jee-Woon’s previous films (A segment in 3 Extremes, A Tale of Two Sisters, and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird) it was already on my radar. Add to that the fact that the entire horror blog community was nearly universally praising it? (A feat which is about as impressive as Comic Book Nerds agreeing on the quality of a movie. If there’s anything genre fans enjoy more than slap fights over whether a movie is “hella cool” or “hella gay” I’d be hard pressed to think of it.)

The fact that it was subtitled AND nearly 2.5 hours long kept getting it pushed off. I knew I would need to devote my entirely attention to it for a long time so I always turned to something else. But I’m glad I finally did. This movie has a lot of things to praise it for. The original score is full of lush, sweeping, orchestral music. The cinematography is perfectly done and the film is as brutal as it is beautiful. The writing, special effects, choreography and direction are all top notch and there’s little to fault here.

It is exceptionally brutal.  The basic premise is a man’s fiancée is murdered and he goes on a quest to find her killer and avenge her death. This is a movie that pulls no punches. There’s plenty of blood, gore, and even nudity but it never feels gratuitous. It never feels exploitative. This is a movie about grief. A man so consumed by it that killing the cause of it wouldn’t even begin to solve it. But how do you lift it? How do you reconcile that level of loss? The rock that’s sitting on your heart isn’t going to disappear just because you put one on someone else. There’s a saying that when embarking on a quest for revenge you should dig two graves. One for Them and one for You. What a lonely place. I think some of us have felt how helpless earth shattering grief is. That level of emotional pain makes you turn outward. To push that energy out into something. Into someone. You can’t always cause that emotional pain but you can certainly accomplish something *physical*. A broken heart for a broken heart.

It is this extreme that drives our Not Quite Hero. He is blinded by his pain. He is consumed with revenge and making the killer feel the same pain that he feels. That his fiancée felt. It is an empty quest because it won’t actually solve his ultimate problem. It won’t give him peace or happiness. It won’t fill the gaping void inside of him. It won’t help him sleep at night or heal his wounds any faster. We feel the same suffering he feels. Between bouts of violence there are scenes dotted with his grief. The loss is palatable and felt in every beat between takes. We never forget what he’s fighting and why. It’s never lost in the impact of a hammer or cut of a scalpel.

We are on this journey for a reason and at the end we feel the same void. That nameless, inevitable void that cannot be filled with blood nor vengeance. Two graves have been dug and we fall screaming into the waiting earth. The guilt, shame, longing, and haunting memories fill in the spaces between the dirt. Revenge is a cold blanket, let us wrap ourselves in it and settle in for the night. I saw the devil and now I can’t look away.

5 out of 5 butts the highest possible honor.


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