The 34th Korean Film Night: A screening of Park Chan-wook’s acclaimed Oldboy

Film title: Old Boy (2003)
Director: PARK Chan-wook
Runtime: 120 mins
Venue: Multi-purpose Hall, Korean Cultural Centre, Ground Floor, Grand Buildings1-3 Strand, London WC2N 5BW
Time: Thursday 22nd October, 7:00pm

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance received an enthusiastic response from Korean reviewers and fellow director, but audiences were hostile. But the streak of fortune that Old Boy continued was something that nobody had expected. The film erased doubts and succeeded at the box office, and just as it was about to be forgotten it was invited to compete at Cannes, attracting attention once again. Not only was PARK’s prediction that he would never go to Cannes off the mark, he was awarded the Grand July Prize. The success of Old Boy, which made its director the Golden Boy of the year, was inspirational to many. Just before it premiered, people who had laughed about his adventurous spirit, saying he had not recovered his senses after the failure of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, were shocked. They saw in living color PARK’s individuality showing an explosive force capable of achieving all kinds of money and honour, delicately twisting the premises of a genre film when it chose to follow them. Even without necessarily sharing the traditional Korean aesthetic, it had a modern appeal that could connect with the audiences of the time.

Kim Young-jin: The Point is that it seems like your film walks a tightrope on the borderline of popular taste. I also wonder about what point of contact you meet this society at.
PARK: I don’t know, it’s kind of an irrelevant answer, but this film is a heroic story, and I’d like it, if people saw it as something close to a prototype containing mythology, ancient stories or old fairy tales. It has content with a similar feeling to a story like that of Pandora’s box. That’s how it is with the “eye for an eye” method of revenge or the rite of passage that the hero goes through. If the main character in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance had a personality representative of his class, here the story that the main character goes through is close to a symbolic archetype. The film is fantasy to a certain extent. As in OH Dae-su’s narration in the last scene where he says, “What has happened until now is the whole of my adventure,” I depicted a hero fighting against destiny, who doesn’t break but intends to go boldly to the end. OH Dae-su putting his red hat on and going out into the snowy field in the last scene creates an atmosphere like a fairy tale. I don’t know what point of contact I meet society at, but I think it’s a success if I touched upon the archetypes that people store in their unconscious.

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