Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002) movie poster

(2002) dir. Chan-wook Park
viewed: 02/24/06

Since watching Chan-wook Park’s 2003 film, Oldboy, the film has lingered in my mind and has struck me as one of the more interesting movies that I had seen in a long time. So, it didn’t take me long to get to seeing Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the first of his “Revenge” trilogy.

Straight off, Mr. Vengeance isn’t quite as interesting as Oldboy, but it is definitely an absorbing thriller with many similar themes and ideas. As in the other, this film centers on a significant brother/sister relationship, in this case between a deaf-mute brother and his sister who is desperately in need of a kidney transplant. In Oldboy, the initial action (the kidnap) creates a mystery to what is happening, resulting in two characters seeking vengeance on one another. In this film, revenge is sought for a myriad of reasons and it’s actions trigger further tragedies and further revenge. Cycles of violence and the morally bereft results of revenge give the films a pessimistic tone and being.

Park often shoots the film through the point of view of Ryu, the deaf-mute brother, using black intertitles to represent the translations of his “signed” communication. There are also many moments of muted and otherwise non-dialogue environmental sound that focus highly on the visual “look”, the sense of drawing information from what is visually “in front of you”. This usage evokes mood considerably as well.

Ryu’s girlfriend is a Communist political protester. Not knowing enough about the culture of South Korea, I find it a little hard to speculate exactly on what she represents in the film in this regard. It’s a strange element that I cannot decipher.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is certainly interesting. I have already gotten a couple more of Chan-wook Park’s films in my queue. He is quickly ascending my list of directors of whom I am particularly interested. I don’t know yet if that is the same a “favorites”, but despite the short-hand sense that that communicates, I think it’s a sort of lame thing to say in general.

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