Director Park Chan-Wook
Writers Park Chan-Wook, Seo-Gyeong Jeong
Starring Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin, Park In-hwan
Synopsis (by MOster)
In an effort to do more good than he's already doing providing comfort to the dying, Friar Sang-Hyeon volunteers for a vacciene experiment in an African facility which is not entirely sanctioned by the church. As an inadvertent result of his participation Sang-Hyeon is transfused with vampire blood which causes his apparent resurrection on the operating table and results in him becoming known as something of a miracle man, with people constantly asking him to pray for their children, etc. In one such encounter he runs into some people from his childhood, and he continues to interact with them at various levels.
Succumbing to his vampiric tendencies is the only thing that keeps the virus against which he was vaccinated at bay (I'm not clear if this is the vaccine), and this begins the erosion of his vows and his humanity.
this was good. i think everything park chan- wook does is pretty brilliant. it was a good twist on a vampire story. for once, the desired chick wasn't in high school, the guy wasn't a bizillion years old, and there was no set mythology in place. the vampire was not bad or invincible, just surviving like a "beast". the priest was still guilt ridden and doing good, in his opinion. and the girl who had been treated like a dog all her life started treating everyone else like a dog, because to her, they were a lower species. this was shot beautifully and intentionally, which is so rare these days. and the emotion that was conveyed by the characters without any dialogue was also pretty awesome. i don't think there is any dialog for the last ten or fifteen minutes. not many directors or actors can do that in jolly ol' hollywood. and last, but not least, EVERYBODY got their comeuppance in the end. like every park chan-wook film
I was really looking forward to this, and I'm glad we got to watch it on demand rather than waiting for it to show up in the regular rotation.
This doesn't bear much resemblance to Park's other works (most notably, the Vengeance Trilogy which includes "Oldboy") except for the pacing. Other than a couple of really interesting action pieces and a few interludes of (spoiler alert?) much-hotter-than-average sex there's no sense of urgency to the proceedings. As things draw to their conclusion (which doesn't become inevitable nearly as early as it could have) they're still playing out in a day-to-day kind of fashion.
The mechanics of the vampirism are so easily accepted by the people involved that disbelief is quite easy to suspend; and once I did that I found each of the characters to be true. There are no broad strokes here, and no easy answers. It's really interesting to watch how Sang-Hyeon's guilt plays against what he's forced to do by his nature as well as what he chooses to do--one element felt a lot like Poe to me--and it's also easy to see how that guilt doesn't transfer to his love interest, Tae-ju. Even the secondary and tertiary characters (down to a man who shares one scene in a conscious state) are palpable as people.
Acting was excellent. Song Kang-ho is excellent as Sang-Hyeon. It was great to watch his face as he thought through actions that were impossible to avoid even though he could foresee the consequences, and also to see his resignation as choices become less difficult. Kim Ok-bin is also top-notch, approaching her role as differently as the characters are. And as Sang-Hyeon's mentor and superior, priest Noh, Park In-hwan (no relation?) plays an entirely different form of desperation with another form of beauty altogether.
There was also a lot to like on the technical side. Park's direction is palpable but not overbearing, with minimal use of Steadicam and lots of tight shots (skillfully edited together, as well) in addition to some really cool one-offs. The final shot is beautiful. For obvious reasons this is a dark movie, but it's never a muddy one. Music and sound effects are also used quite well.
I highly recommend this film. People talk about how Korean cinema has "arrived" (or similar platitudes), but I find that to be condescending. I don't know much about the timeline, but I think it's just as likely that we've arrived in Korea.