Although he’s been around for a couple of decades now, Bong Joon-ho is still building his profile. That’s mostly true for those of us outside of South Korea as he had been unknown by quite a few people outside of his home country. Obviously, Parasite changed that to a great extent and some are hoping to expose the world to some of his early work that we may not have had the chance to see.
The film being discussed specifically, in this case, is Memories of Murder. Originally released in 2003, this film tells a story that’s loosely based on actual events. In a small province in 1980s South Korea, a trio of detectives race against time to stop a serial rapist and murderer. As they put the pieces together, they know that the chances of another life being taken increases. With very few clues and a lack of technology on their side, the group has to find a way to come together to take down the sadistic criminal before it’s too late.
One thing that I noticed pretty early on is that the film was set on almost exclusively focusing on the investigation. We don’t really get to know the characters as far as their personal lives like we do in most films like this. Instead, it starts off with a group of cops looking into the murders and almost never veers off that path.
There’s a part of me that likes this as it doesn’t waste much time on things that don’t necessarily need to be in the film. This occurs far too much these days as we find ourselves having to deal with this issue over and over. Now, this doesn’t mean that a character’s personal life can’t fit into what’s going on, but you just don’t want to overdo it and potentially take away from the main story.
To avoid this, what’s shown needs to fit within the confines of the film. The problem is that there are too many instances where these moments and scenes don’t do that and would be better off being removed entirely. With Memories of Murder, we have an example of what happens when that stuff is phased out almost completely. In that sense, this is the type of movie that compared to a film like Seven.
I think Seven does a better job of exploring the characters. Although I don’t want to spend too much time on this stuff when watching a movie, it can still be an important element of the film. When done correctly, you’re still able to connect with the characters in some way. And by the film’s climax, the completion of the character’s arc will be more impactful.
Unlike that David Fincher flick, Memories of Murder also tries to find spaces to include a bit of humor. I knew that was here as well, but I actually expected there to be more of it. What we actually get is humorous and blends in with everything else as it never feels forced or misplaced. It also makes the characters feel more human.
You can see how the maker of Memories of Murder eventually went on to make something like Parasite even though they’re different movies (starring the same lead actor). Of course, this 2003 film isn’t as good as his award-winning 2019 picture, but you wouldn’t expect it to be. What you do see is a filmmaker who was already good developing and getting even better over time.
That’s generally what happens when you work on your craft. I think as a filmmaker in the early stages of your career, a movie like this one is actually smart to make. This doesn’t have the level of depth that we’ve seen in Bong Joon-ho’s filmography since then, but it doesn’t need as much either. What’s more vital than anything else in situations like this is gaining experience and sharpening your skills.
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Film Length: 131 minutes
U.S. Release Dates:
October 19, 2020 (2 Night Limited release)
October 27, 2020 (VOD)
Distributor: NEON (U.S.)
- Score - 7.5/107.5/10