Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Oldboy" (2003)

“Oldboy” is a work that flirts with merely being a piece of (well crafted) shock art. Like a really well made crucifix placed in a fine toilet. It is truly well made film, but those are a dime a dozen these days. What has launched this film into the stratosphere of well-respected films is likely just that fact that it is dark. Very dark.

Spoilers ahead, but you have either already seen this film or you don’t want to. Trust me. “Oldboy” is the story of a man kidnapped and held prisoner for 15 years in a room. When released his whole life is driven by the desire to find his captor and avenge himself. That, and an unexplainable relationship he quickly starts with a young girl. Turns out, he had been kidnapped, held prisoner and been hypnotized to fall in love with… his grown daughter. She too had been hypnotized. This whole over-the-top plan to induce incest was in itself revenge for something the man had done years before. He gossiped about a couple of students he had seen having sex without knowing they were brother and sister, and the girl had later killed herself. Like I said, dark.

What does almost rescue the art here is the way it is a study of the way we are all imprisoned in the cages of our own making. Someone like me—a believer—would call that being a slave to sin. Even the innocent mistakes we make have a huge impact on the people around us. It almost saves it, but doesn’t make it worth the time to subject yourself to this movie. Even if it is on that unwritten list every serious film lover has to see to be taken seriously.

Hollywood remade this film last year. It has no doubt been seriously sanitized, but in many ways that likely makes the American remake even less redeemable.

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