I’m sure everyone has spent a considerable amount of their time thinking about the uncertainties of life. At least for me, as a kid, I was often befuddled in my own imagination by several challenging thoughts. Thoughts such as “What came first? The egg or the hen?” or “Why did I see what I saw in my dream last night?”. All such thoughts still continue to find their way into my imagination till today and provide me with unmatched intellectual stimulation.

Cinema, which happens to be one of the most eloquent art forms, has transcended into that zone many times and has taken on the challenge of telling stories that other forms of art would probably fail to do. Mainstream hits like ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Inside Out’ have delved deep into these abstract and hard-to-explain concepts to produce cinematic masterpieces which were daring enough to represent these thoughts on screen. The recommendation I am to provide today, though, happens to be a film which not a lot of people would identify with. Nevertheless, it still dives bravely into the ocean of uncertainty and confuses its viewers, who are expected to ruminate on the numerous questions the film raises and follow the complex and mind-bending storyline along the way too.

‘Memories of Murder’ is a South Korean police procedural movie about a string of murders that took place in a Korean village in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The film has been directed by the widely acclaimed filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, who happens to be the current holder of the Academy Award for Best Director for directing ‘Parasite’. Even though Parasite is considered to be the director’s apex mountain by many scholars, Memories of Murder, released in 2003, is his greatest work in my humble opinion because of its unmatched ability of genre-mixing, chilling score and magnificent cinematography.

The film utilizes character arcs to make one of the best second-person narratives ever filmed. The first is that of a detective named Doo-man from the village where the murders take place. Doo-man goes from being completely neglectful about his profession to becoming seriously affected by the grotesque and gruesome murders. The second character arc is that of a well-educated and professional detective named Tae-yoon, who is sent from Seoul to investigate the murders. He becomes so disturbed by the murders that he ends up employing the unprofessional methods of Doo-man in a desperate attempt to find the murderer. The third character arc is that of the murderer, whose killings turn more and more violent as the investigation progresses. Giving away any more about the film would probably spoil the mystery of the culprit which makes the audience so restless to solve along with the two aforementioned. Through a belt of clues during the course of the investigation in the film, the detectives follow the mirage-like, deceptive image of the murderer in their heads to reach what is probably one of the best climactic sequences in the history of cinema. In my books, the ending shot of the film is probably the best closing shot to any film ever; it is laced with ambiguity and a sense of bone-chilling fear when the message of the film is explicitly revealed to the audiences.

The film constantly keeps the audiences on the edge of their seats and proves to be a highly intellectual narrative borrowing elements of crime, mystery, horror and even comedy all at once. It delivers to us an episode of laughter which is often followed by a hysterical jumpscare, all built on the bedrock of an incredibly strong storyline. The brightness of the technical marvels, subtle but realistic acting and the direction by arguably the hottest director of our time elegantly shine brightly in every nook and cranny of the film, making it the true masterpiece it is.

There is a special, peculiar reason as to why Bong Joon-ho receives tremendous amount of praise as a filmmaker and ‘Memories of Murder’ confirms it.

 

– Jai Gupta, Delhi Public School, RK Puram

 

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