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'Lady Vengeance': The Last Word on Revenge

2005/07/28 | Permalink | Source

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

Director Park Chan-wook finally arrived at the end of his exploration of the revenge theme in his latest film, "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Chinjolhan Kumjassi)".

It serves well for the conclusion of his trilogy, but somehow falls short of satisfying moviegoers who expect absurd and complex confrontation between main characters, as shown in his previous two works.

The movie is a story about a woman who tries to take revenge on a man who puts her in a miserable situation. And the director stylishly sheds light on the importance of the atonement for sins and the salvation of the soul, but the message is delivered with a bit of a biblical feel.

In the movie, Kum-ja (played by Lee Young-ae) is falsely charged with the kidnapping and murder of a boy and is put behind bars for 13 years.

As its Korean title suggests, which is roughly translated as "Kind Miss Kum-ja", she seems to be completely enlightened while serving the sentence. In jail, she lives like an angel to help her inmates.

The reality is that she has long prepared for the deadly revenge on the actual murderer of the boy while she is serving the sentence.

Two thirds of the story shows how she gets involved in the murder case and how she prepares for the revenge, which successfully builds tension and is sometimes mixed with the black humor that the director often uses in his films.

Kum-ja's multiple personality is brilliantly portrayed, thanks to Lee's great performance, who has previously played only typical feminine characters, such as Jang-gum from the historical television drama "Jewel in the Palace (Dae jang geum)".

The mixed emotions of her prolonged hatred and grievousness help the director effectively get to the point that he wants to make as the conclusion of the trilogy.

When she completes her revenge, she puts her face on a white cake in the shape of "tubu", or a firm bean curd, as people here first eat a piece of tufu as a symbolic gesture of being purified from their all sins _ like the white color of tubu _ when they are discharged from jail. She now realizes that revenge can't be the end of the atonement for her sins.

However, as the film focuses on Kum-ja's inner conflict, it lacks the creation of complex characters and their conflicts. So most characters tend to be plain and easily divided only into typically good or bad men. The character that Choi Min-sik, from "Old Boy", plays is only seen as an evil villain without any reasons.

The main characters from the two previous revenge film, "Poksunun Naui Kot (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance)" in 2002 and "Old Boy" in 2003, make cameo appearances in the film but their appearances also look a bit confusing or disturbing as they don't have any direct connection to the film.

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