Lady Vengeance

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“Revenge is a bitch…”

This film may need two viewings. First time up, I was irritated by an apparent lack of coherence – which was particularly annoying, since the non-linear storyline seemed almost completely superfluous. Second time round, it bothered me less though remained, perhaps deliberately, disorienting, and I still doubt the need for it. But the re-view left me better able to appreciate the great central idea, a chilling meditation on justice, revenge, the thin line between the two, and the effects on those who become involved. The final part of Park’s loose trilogy (after Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy) is the story of “kind-hearted Geum-ja” (Lee), who spends 13 years in prison, for the heinous murder of a young child. Except, she isn’t guilty, and spends the time forging alliances which will help with her new goal: revenge on the real perpetrator (Choi).

The pace is stately, rather than adrenalin-driven, yet there’s no denying its place here. Much credit to Lee for a great performance in a complex character, capable of huge sacrifice in her quest for redemption: she cuts off a finger in front of the victim’s parents, and has to be physically restrained from removing more. Yet it seems that her charity and good deeds, such as donating a kidney to a fellow prisoner, may be part of her vengeance. And then, when her goal is within grasp…she steps back to allow others, perhaps better-motivated, to take her place. Or is the opportunity that she offers a poisoned chalice? The questions asked have no easy answers; neither proponents of capital punishment, nor those opposed to it, will find it comfortable viewing. By the end, there are no victims left; everyone is guilty – to use the old Sex Pistols line, no-one is innocent.

he DVD was released by Tartan Video USA on September 26th, and includes an interview with Park, a ‘making of’ documentary, and no less than three commentaries. Nice job! For more information, visit the Tartan Video USA site.
a.k.a. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Dir: Park Chan-Wook
Stars: Lee Young-ae, Choi Min-sik, Kim Si-Hu, Nam Il-Woo

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