Friday, 20 January 2012

Asian Cinema - Revengeance Double Bill

Today I watched two rented blu-rays films – somewhat coincidentally they were both of Asian cinema and shared a similar theme - that of Revengeance!*

However both were almost opposite in tone and handled their subject matter very differently.

First up is the Japanese film Confessions directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, a story that starts with the stark revelation by a teacher to her class that not only was the recent death of her young daughter not an accident, but the killers are amongst the students present. The film continues to reveal further shocking truths as the various narrations of events or ‘confessions’ by different characters further expands upon the tale – mostly centred around a complicated revenge plot orchestrated by the teacher as the guilty youths could not be punished justly by the law.

Although the occasional evil genius child machinations akin to Death Note might feel a bit contrived to some – the twists keep things interesting right up until the end.

It should be mentioned that this film is beautifully shot, one of the most visually arresting Japanese films in recent memory - and the haunting score also helps to create an almost dreamlike feel to the entire piece. People can also enjoy it as an expertly written commentary on juvenile crime, the absence of parents and of course revenge (as much of it in a psychological form as well as physically).

On the other end of the spectrum we have I Saw the Devil by Jee-woon Kim - which sees the clash of two Korean acting heavyweights: Min-sik Choi (who starred in Oldboy and Lady Vengeance) and Byung-hun Lee (A Bittersweet Life). After the former murders the latter’s fiancée, a brutal game of cat and mouse ensues, with plenty of blood, violence, torture and casualties along the way.

Both leads are excellent in their respective roles and perfect foils for one another, likened by the director as fire versus ice in their performance styles. This story is centred around revenge as well – whereas Confessions is largely about mood and often very talky, I Saw the Devil serves up plenty of violent action and brutality in its tale of retribution.
Recommended if you are a fan of Chan Wook Park’s films, but others may be turned off by its unflinching nastiness that is pretty relentless throughout. Decapitations, cannibals, being smashed in the nuts with a wrench – its all there.

Polar opposites in tone but both equally chock full of revengeance! Take your pick – personally, I preferred Confessions - its gorgeous cinematography clinched it for me – one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

*Revengeance is defined by the as ‘The act of revenge at a rate of at least 2.54 times greater to that of standard revenge and 1.61 times that of standard vengeance’.

19 Jan 2012

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