Monday, April 18, 2011

FI: Memories of Murder

Memories of Murder (Salinui chueok)
South Korea, 2003
Directed by Bong Joon-ho

In the US, we've been dealing with serial killers for ages, and the West, as a whole, has a long history of that sort of thing. But the first-known serial murders in South Korea's modern history took place between 1986 and 1991, and Memories of Murder is about the investigation into this case.

If you're familiar with Bong Joon-ho's most well-known film, 2006's monster dramedy The Host (Goemul), you'll recognize a similar tone here in the scenes featuring the in-over-their-heads provincial cops' attempts to solve a crime beyond their ken via shoddy detective work, intimidation, and coerced confessions. But the comedic highs are more tempered here, grounded in realism and the frustration of trying to solve—and, thus, explain away and somehow make sense out of—something as monstrous as serial rape and murder in a place with no history of such crimes. The film runs a little long, and the strain Bong places on our relationship with the protagonists (via their bullying and ineptitude) can be frustrating at times. Plus, the odds are that you've seen enough procedurals to know their beats, which might cause dissonance in the light of this one's slightly off-kilter pace and tone. That said, it's a fascinating, beautifully filmed story.

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