Last night I sat down and watched Bong Joon Ho’s Memories Of Murder. Set in late 80s South Korea around the time of the student uprisings and the Gwangju massacre. Police brutality was rife and all this was accurately depicted in the film, at least to my non Korean eyes. I don’t know all the background stuffs but suffice to say there was definitely a political undercurrent in the film.

The film starts off in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, which is pretty much the countryside. Park is a local detective playing by Song Kang Ho who investigates the murder of a woman whose body was found in a ditch. A second body is found not long after and the police begin to think the similarity in the crimes means a serial killer is on the loose. Park pinpoints a mentally handicapped young man as the crim and the department even starts celebrating at one point. That is until, Detective Seo comes from Seoul to help out. He realizes the poor young man, beaten until he was going to confess could not have possibly committed the crime and this is proven to be true once they find yet another body.

The 2 detectives each work in their own ways. Park with his more brusque, brutal approach and Seo with his logical calm. They get closer to the quarry and most of the show focuses on the chase and question of who the killer was and whether they would be able to find him.

The film is actually based on a true story as well which is what I found to be remarkable. Bong’s film is a beautiful one. The framing is careful, deliberate. Color is a huge element, with red playing a primary role as it was what the women wore when they were killed. But what was more awesome is how he weaved this real life crime story together with the political backdrop to make a statement with the eventual conclusion.

I liked the conflicting main characters. One a country bumpkin and the other a city slicker, each reflective of different facets of Korea at large. The infighting between the two doesn’t really help and instead causes problems at times. Yet despite their differences, they’re each resolute in their own way to try to solve the crime. The question isn’t whether they’re going to be able to but whether they’ll even get the opportunity.

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