Memories of Murder is Bong Joon-ho’s classical tangerine of what the suspense films can be all about and to me Bong in many ways is indescribable film maker, with his sensible depiction of socio- political profusion of Korean society. This movie is based on the infamous serial killing-a true story of the Korea’s first serial murder in history, which took place between 1986 and 1991, which is known as Hwaseong serial murder in South Korea.
Admirably, it’s the kind of subject that’s been far-reaching and intense. Bong’s fascination filled with black humour, sudden mood shifts and ability to immerse viewers in a sprightly manifold ambiance is astonishing, which has earned him a wide spread appreciation and recognition internationally. Bong Joon-ho, the South Korean director popularly known for his monster film “The Host,” made after this film.
Spot-on to the desperation, frustration, and obsession of the people who wanted to find the man behind the horrific killings. The beginning note of a film is not an individual memory but the collective trauma of all of them. The killings conjured an unusual métier of shock and despair. This was also because the local folks simply were not able to comprehend the aghast and the scale of the crimes. Thou were all the way found difficult to trap the perpetrators, an effort go in vain.
This film yet in a tradition of New Korean Cinema find the inordinate tonal shift; illustrate the events in an extensive rural backdrop, boisterous wit in parallel handling a disturbing tinge of melancholy and sadness. It takes an immense skill to pull off such a high-wire act without diminishing the gravity of the situation. Each scene is so well-crafted and sophisticated. The narratives are unconventional and the visual compositions are meticulous. The antics of the duo detectives Park (Song kang-ho) and Seo (Kim Sang-kyung) performances are unquestionable, in their attempt to solve the crimes in their weighty, frustrated and anguish moods are so factual through the phase of hardboiled tales of suspense, and everything in-between unsettled in the most dreadful of modern human types, the serial murderer.
Memories of Murder received screenings at several international film festivals, including Cannes Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival, London International Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival and San Sebastian International Film Festival, where Bong Joon-ho won the Best Director Award.
The film begins in the October of 1986, in a peaceful sunny autumn afternoon, soaring above a field filled with the waves of a golden rice paddy ready for the harvest. A young woman is found raped and murdered in a ditch near a field and thereafter, we see another woman found raped and murdered in a field. The local investigator Park not having dealt with such a grim case before is overwhelmed as the evidence and key notes are inappropriately collected which leads to suspect remain in doubt and to add their forensic technology is near non-existent.
When detective Seo arrives from Seoul with a firm commitment to protocol, a tense rivalry inevitably develops between the two parties, but their relationship slowly evolves as the situation grows more desperate. The local detective and the city cop get into egos and nasty arguments before the predictions of another murder come true realizing that the killer waits until a rainy night, and only kills women wearing red. A female police officer recognizes that a local radio station is always requested to play a particular song during the nights the murders are committed.
The city detective unfolds each of the clues, following the local investigator hook the confession out of a local man found masturbating at the scene of one crime, and a scarred mentally challenged boy whom they threaten to kill, far making that person dig his own grave. Seo clears both of those suspects and follows a trail of clues to a handsome factory worker who had only moved to the area a short time before the first murder. The detectives are unable to pin anything on him, when they realize that the physically challenged boy observed one of the crimes frightened going to cops, runs in front of an oncoming train and is killed.
Going by, there is yet another murder committed. The DNA evidence referred for processing in the United States comes back inconclusive, as the city detective’s frustrations go haywire and roughs up the factory worker, which prompts Park stops Seo from shooting the suspect and thus parting ways the crimes remain unsolved.
Then the movie moves to an outwardly epilogue sequence which turns out to be one of the most lingering closing scenes. Time has passed and the year is 2003- the city of Hwaseong is more urbanized than before as one of the satellite cities surrounding Seoul, and Park, now an entrepreneur, coincidentally comes across the drain, one of those places of the haunting memory, learns from a little girl that the scene had recently been visited by another unknown man looking at a drain (from the scene of the second murder, which is shown at the beginning of the film)…..In reply, the small girl had asked him of what was his lookout at that drain, his response is the reminiscing of the past long ago. As an audience, it just touches at first, and in the end, the remains are the chilling reminder of those memories and the violent era passage through…………
Bong’s film is not explicitly about these cataclysms and changes, nor does it cosset in nostalgias. Just exposing the injustices that structure social life that go unchallenged and often unseen, and for few in the helm of those memories and fears of society on very edge of dramatic transformation creates a poignant and implausible social change that are hard to convince and pause for another time is simply a mythic resonance. I’m sure Memories’ nosedives a delightful recall and the cinematic sensitivities coming alive in a simpler tenors of our times
- Written & Directed by Bong Joon-ho
- Produced by Cha Seung-jae
- Co-Written by Shim Sung-bo
- Based on “Memories of Murder”by Kim Kwang-rim
- Cast: Song kang-ho and Kim Sang-kyung
- Music by Taro-Iwashiro
- Cinematography by Kim Hyung-koo
- Edited by Kim Sun-min
- Production company: CJ Entertainment & Sidus Pictures
- Distributed by CJ Entertainment
- Release dates: 2nd May 2003