Thirst – Original title: Bakjwi (2009)
Directed by: Chan-wook Park
South Korea is an amazing country. Technology, cars, education… all developing at an amazing speed. And the same can be said about the Korean cinema. Interesting plots, beautiful photography, superb acting, Korean movies are an exquisite delight. And something very interesting is that the citizens of this nation recognize the astonishing work crafted by their own artists. It’s one of the few countries in the world that the national movies have a better performance than the American movies.
Chan-wook Park is a renowned director. He is known for the cruel, immoral, filthy, even grotesque at times, but yet stunning, elegant and refined “The Vengeance Trilogy” composed by “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”, “Oldboy” and “Lady Vengeance”. A must have for any person interested in an unique cinema, disassociated from the “unwritten rules”. One must have in mind that his filmography also contains other gems such as “J.S.A.: Joint Security Area” (which has a very contemporary theme, concerning the conflicts between North and South Korea) and “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK”.
As said before, his titles are uncommon. IMDB lists as one of Chan-wook Park trade marks that “frequently uses short, surreal fantasy sequences in which a deceased character will interact with a living one in the film’s present (or vice versa)” and lists one of my favorite Park’s quotes: “Numerous times I lie in bed at night and imagine the cruelest torture. I imagine the most miserable ruining of that person’s life. After that, I can fall asleep with a smile on my face. As long as it stays in the realm of imagination, the crueler the better – that’s healthy. I’d like to recommend it to you all as well. I hope my films can help in any small way to help your imagination become at least a little bit crueler.” This might give you an idea of how his creations are like.
Before today’s suggestion I have a few more things to mention. One that I don’t enjoy, when it comes to movie reviews, is that a substantial amount of them tells you the entire plot. Some even give you hints about what happens when the film ends! And yeah, I don’t understand why they forget about a polite “spoiler alert”. Another aspect I don’t like either is that some of the reviews are simply about the technical aspects. And it’s not superficial; they go into details that most of us don’t understand at all. So, I prefer reviews/ suggestions which expose the general work of the artist, main aspects and trade marks, telling you a bit about the plot, if the movie is enjoyable or not and to which kind of people the film is usually targeted to.
So, now we should talk about what’s important, Chan-wook Park’s new movie “Thirst”, which is the object of the present article. Even though, as it is absolutely crystal clear, I’m a big Chan-wook Park fan, I felt a bit skeptical before watching it, since we all have been bombarded by vampire movies and TV series. Some of them made me speechless (such as the sublime “Let the Right One In/ Låt den rätte komma in” and others that aren’t that good or I should say terrible. There’s one that I didn’t manage to wait until the end and left the theater. I won’t mention any as everyone is entitled to have his/ her own opinions and I’m not here to criticize other people’s tastes :-). So, as I was heading for the International Festival to see it for the first time, I kept on thinking: “I believe that this will be the first Chan-wook Park movie that will disappoint me”. And I was wrong (fortunately).
This is a very good article I found at “Cinema Autopsy” by Thomas Caldwell which tells you a bit about the plot without ruining the movie:
“(…) After dying during a medical experiment to develop a vaccine for a deadly virus, the Priest Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho from The Host) is resurrected as a vampire when some unidentifiable blood is transfused into him. Having lived a moral life up until now, Sang-hyun not only has a blood lust awakened within, but a lust of the more conventional kind for Tae-joo (Kim Ok-vin), the unhappy wife of a childhood friend. The sex/violence metaphor is nothing original, particularly in a vampire film, but with its amplified sucking and squelching sounds and sheer audacity, academics will be lining up to discuss Thirst’s brazen use of the abject and its approach to bodily horror. As weird and gruesome as Thirst gets, it is also very playful and Park demonstrates his great ability in creating moments of visual comedy. However, the most distinguishing element of Thirst is its love story component and as the forbidden lovers, Song and Kim generate an incredible amount of chemistry. They perform one of the most intense and erotic sex scenes ever captured on film and their movements together throughout the space of this film is akin to dancing. Their violence towards one another is tender and their tenderness for each other is violent. At first glance Thirst draws many parallels with “The Fly” and “Let the Right One In” but its true reference point are the films of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.”
If you enjoy Asian cinema, urban movies, lots of twists, vampires, horror, art, gore or dark humor, this is the movie for you. You’ll spend two hours in a different and exotic world. One warning though: it’s a great movie, but very violent and there are some sex scenes as well.