Culture shock. This was one of, famous Korean director, Chang-wook Park‘s Vengeance trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002); Oldboy (2003); and Lady Vengeance (2005). Park was also the director behind his North American debut of the 2013 Stoker. I watched the American version of the Oldboy (2013) with Josh Brolin as the lead character, Joe Doucett, which I didn’t really like and later confirmed that the original was a much better version, which I am still trying to get my hand on a free copy somehwere…but I found the other two, and watched Lady Vengeance first, cause I heard of good things when it was released in theater here in Canada; it must have been in 2006. Now I understand why the American re-make of Old Boy was so so: US Rating System.
When I finished watching, I quickly realised the standards between the two countries were definitely different. Surprisingly, Korean cinema in this instance was more liberal than American’s. Having said that it meant part of the story would make you feel very uncomfortable. Not in the sense of the violence that Park was famous for, but its subject matters, i.e., moral, punishment, sexuality, revenge, guilt, and redemption.
I loved how Park told the story of a serial killer, but mostly from the perspective of the victims of his crimes. Most of the time, we watched films that focused mostly of solving the crimes, so this was in fact quite refreshing, i.e., making the killer secondary to the plot. Normally, we would cheer when the killer was caught or killed in the final act, but here I guarantee that you will get the same satisfaction, perhaps even more as the killer met his destiny(can’t tell you how…sorry). This was what the shock I meant.
This was a dark and sometime humourous film, especially at moments I didn’t expect. Several times I said to myself, “No way!”, “Could you really show that?…in Korea!?” and I loved those scenes, because it defied those straight-lace chastened hypocritical images of American’s cinema: blur shots; shortened scene, … To make my point, (spoiler alert), there was a forced woman on woman scene that was comical, abusive, orgasmic, and disturbing all at the same time! …and in Korea?!
The story is about the release of a convicted child killer, Geum-ja Lee(Yeong-ae Lee), who spent thirteen years in a female prison. She shared a room with 8 other women that served different lengths in jail. Some of them became her friends, and some became her victims. She was a model prisoner and worked in the kitchen, but for those who knew her call her the “Witch”. Yet, for those who worshipped her call her a Saint.
When she is released, she constantly questions herself whether she is the Witch or the Saint? Cause she did kill people in prison, and ironically she also helped the one being bullied in that system.
As the story unfolds, you will understand how she was convicted of the murder. She was demanded to re-enact how she suffocated the boy with a cushion to prove that she was guilty, after she confessed.
Why did she kill the boy? Who were the parents? Did she really kill him? She killed inmates! What is that she tries to avenge?
Hints: it will involve the inspector who prosecuted her, a serial killer that she eventually finds that she knew, those prison mates that she helped, the parents of the children that were killed.
Half way through I thought it was over, but the best half was still waiting. So don’t stop until you watch the whole thing. I wish I could tell you more, but….
WATCH…definitely different from the cookie-cutter films I have been watching lately.