Bakjwi

Synopsis: From the acclaimed director of the global hit Old Boy comes a shockingly original vampire story with a chilling, erotic style. A blood transfusion saves the life of a priest, but also transforms him into a vampire. He struggles to control his insatiable thirst for blood until a love affair unleashes his darkest desires in deadly new ways. Hailed as “Daring, operatic, and bloody funny!” (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly), Thirst is a truly wicked love story that takes classic vampire lore to twisted new heights.

***********************************************************************

Bakjwi 7.75

As a fan of Chan-Wook Park’s so-called ‘Vengeance Trilogy’, I’ve been interested in seeing all of his other films. I wasn’t especially inspired by the idea of a vampire story, no doubt due to the abundance of Asian horror films I’ve seen – many of which are not that great. Plus it’s called ‘Thirst’. For some reason, that left me cold.

But I kept reading really great things about the film, and it’s constantly being referenced in my various movie-related readings. So, when I was able to get my hands on it, I finally decided to take the plunge.

Well, I have mixed feelings about the end result. cool

The film tells the tale of a priest, who, unhappy with his current duty in a local hospital, wanting to make a bigger difference, decides to offer himself as a guinea pig to a scientific research team which is trying to find a cure to a ghastly disease. By subjecting himself to the deadly infection and the subsequent treatment, he finds himself inexplicably transformed into a vampiric creature.

At first, unaware of his transformation, he is welcomed back to his home town as some sort of miracle of God – having been the only person amongst dozens to survive the infection. He returns to his former duties, but people line up for him to lay his hands on their sick family and friends, believing that he is imbued with powers from God. A humble man, he is incredulous, but consistently indulges them.

…until he begins to change, and his life along with him. shock

I’m not 100% sure why I have mixed feelings about ‘Thirst. The one thing nagging me is that I have the impression that I missed a lot of the film’s essence, that I didn’t connect some the dots that were key to appreciating and fully understanding what the filmmaker was putting forward. sad

It doesn’t help that I find the film somewhat incoherent, in that some sequences didn’t really make sense to me until minutes later – as though they were improperly put together. There was one scene in Park’s ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’ that was like this (even after repeat viewings!), so this is why I’m thinking it may have occurred here.

Or maybe my brain was set on stun when I watched it. We all have “off days” wink

What hints at this possibility is the fact that I seemed to be oblivious to some of Park’s ingenious camera work. It wasn’t as overt as it had been in his other films, but there were so amazing shots that required a lot of thought and skill to pull off. Oddly enough, I always noticed them too late (and probably not at all, in some cases confused).

Was the camerawork purposely so fluid as to be virtually unnoticeable, or was I asleep at the wheel? It’s quite possible that it was intentional, because the aural quality of the film was also more discrete: while his other films had terrific ambient ear candy, this film had only minor surround activity – and nothing particularly noteworthy. crying

Another thing that makes me wonder if it was me or the film, is the fact that it only occurred to me after the fact that the film may have been a commentary on religion or faith. Not only do we have a man devoted to his Christian beliefs, but, in the shadow of his infection, he is confronted with worship, a shaking of his faith and values, and the impact of his condition on the faithful as well as the unbelievers.

There is much to think about and discuss, even if it sometimes defies credulity. And yet, I didn’t quite catch on. sad

‘Thirst’ obviously has a very different lineage than North American vampire films, which are based in Eastern European traditions, so the mixture of religion and vampirism is played out very differently. Here, his vampiric form is not subject to the tortures that traditional vampires are subject to: crosses, holy water and garlic have no effect on him (in fact, the only thing that seems to be a bother is the sun – and even then I’m unsure if it affects him all the time). As well, he can be seen in mirrors and doesn’t transform or look like a bat.

It’s a different kind of vampire film, for sure. It’s not about hunting down the villain (who, in the traditional vampire film, is considered a satanic creature); our protagonist is, in fact, the would-be villain. Except that he’s not – he’s a moral man doing everything he can to do right, but, flawed as a mortal man is, doesn’t always succeed. confused

In effect, it’s a tragedy: it’s about a loss of faith and a falling from grace – all triggered by the intentions of doing good. This man’s life goes from being decent, but unfulfilling, to its complete disintegration – without being especially heavy or depressing.

I definitely need to watch this film a second time around. I have to make a point of it – even if I don’t end up enjoying it that much more, watching with a different perspective will no doubt provide me with some satisfaction. And, if I’m really lucky, a new appreciation of it. laughing

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s