October 19, 2020

SCREEN | Bong Joon-ho Investigates the 'Memories of Murder'

"What kind of detective sleeps well?"
Song Kang-ho Jeon Mi-seon | Bong Joon-ho's Memories of Murder
Neon / Elevation Pictures
Thanks to the improbable success of Parasite, South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho's acclaimed 2003 police drama Memories of Murder has been remastered and re-released for North American audiences. Partially based on Korea's first serial murders in history between 1986 and 1991 that went unsolved until last year, the crime procedural methodically dramatizes the step-by-step bungling of an entire investigation and dissects a small-town police force's inexperience solving homicides.

Starring Bong regular Song Kang-ho and Kim Sang-kyung as the standard older and younger detective pairing, Park and Seo, the film is really all about details and obsession. Seo is from Seoul and much more experienced working murder cases while Park, who's from the rural backwater of Hwaseong where the ten unsolved rape-murders occurred, falls on his unreliable gut instincts to solve crimes—he foolishly thinks he can spot guilt in the eyes of suspects. They predictably butt heads as their methods clash in conventional cop fashion.

Bong and Shim Sung-bo's fluid script focuses on the aftermath of these shocking crimes just as much as actually trying to solve them or the heinous individual behind it all. It's more concerned with the cost and causes of these gruesome rape-murders both exploring the psychological profile of the perpetrator and their lingering effects on greater society.

Bong's 2003 masterful film remains a hallmark of the New Korean Cinema movement. Memories of Murder painstakingly ritualizes the act of murder as it tries to solve situations and how the investigation went wrong. It takes an unsatisfying case and details how it unfolded to reveal much more about those involved trying to understand the obsession of mystery over finding the actual killer himself.

A remastered version of Memories of Murder opens at select theatres including the Rio Theatre and Vancity Theatre. It will be available through video on demand starting November 3rd.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / GQ

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