Tag Archives: afterlife

Thirst – Review

12 Jan

Anyone who reads these reviews knows that I’m a huge fan of South Korean movies. South Korea is actually may favorite market for foreign film because of the amount of beautifully shot films that come out of there. Today we’re going to be looking at a movie made by Park Chan-wook who is prominently known for his cult classic Oldboy, but also for dabbling in the American market with Stoker. I’ve always found the majority of his movies to be beautiful but awfully pretentious. The same can be said for his 2009 film Thirst, although it is far more enjoyable than others like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance.

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Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a Catholic priest who feels that his life should be dedicated more to than just prayer. To make himself feel more fulfilled both with his life and faith, Sang-hyun decides to volunteer to become a test subject to find a cure for the deadly Emmanuel Virus, which has been wiping people out all over the globe. While he does in fact die during the test, he is resurrected when a blood transfusion is performed, but with some unexplainable side effects. Sang-hyun is now cursed with vampirism and survives day to day by stealing blood from hospitals. Life after death becomes even more complicated when he is reunited with Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin), a childhood acquaintance who insists on becoming a vampire.

This is just such a cool idea for a movie. When done properly, vampire movies can contain some of the coolest and most memorable scenes and characters. Interview With a Vampire is my go to vampire movie, but then there’s the comedic What We Do in the Shadows that also works great as a vampire movie. In Thirst, the biggest draw that separates it from the rest is the fact that a Catholic priest is turned into a vampire. This is an interesting plot point since Catholics believe so strongly in going to either heaven or hell after they die, and this priest is now stuck in this undead state and is forced to drink blood to survive. Another interesting thing is that Park wrote vampirism to be some weird biological side effect to the disease that Sang-hyun volunteered to help find a cure for. It puts an interesting and worldly twist on something that is normally considered supernatural.

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With his other films, Park Chan-wook has shown himself to be highly skilled at creating a visually beautiful movie. While his movies do look beautiful, I’ve always felt that they’ve lacked in terms of telling a story. In both these regards, Thirst is no different. There’s a lot of great looking scenes in this movie that deserve a lot of attention, but Park doesn’t really explore the narrative possibilities to their full potential. There’s a vampire priest that’s engaged in a sexually charged relationship with a woman who feels the need to become a vampire. That should open a lot of doors to utilize different vampire lore or character development, but that doesn’t really happen to the degree it should. With that in mind, there are also a lot of scenes where nothing really happens and just serve to drag the movie out a little bit intead of a scene that could include something that would boost the movie up.

Thirst is an example of a really good movie that gets weighed down by the pretentiousness of the film maker. Park Chan-wook obviously has a lot to say about a lot of things, but he’s conveying these ideas in broken sentences. It’s pretty clear that Park’s main goal was to make a beautiful piece of art, but the art of a movie isn’t just how it looks or sounds. To me, one of the most important pieces to a film is the story. Narrative should never be discounted as not important to making a cinematic work of art, even if it’s something more abstract or experimental. That’s just my personal taste anyway.

I don’t want this review to sound negative because I actually did enjoy Thirst and appreciate the work that Park Chan-wook put into it. It’s actually one of his best movies after Oldboy. I just wish more attention would have been put into the lore of the vampire and more detail added to create a flowing story. I actually highly recommend this film to people who love a good vampire movie, but just don’t expect a completely fulfilling movie.

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Hereafter – Review

7 Aug

Death is not an easy topic to understand or explore since people have so many interpretations of what it is exactly and what happens after we take the ultimate power nap. Some see it as a biological shut down in which nothing happens except total darkness. Others see it as a new beginning and an awakening to another, better life. Hereafter examines both of these possibilities flawlessly without getting religious or preachy.

 

Marie LeLay (Cecile de France) is a French journalist who experiences a death while in Thailand during the 2004 tsunami. She sees images that can not be forgotten and feels driven to report on what she saw, even though it seems like no one really wants to hear about it.  George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a psychic who is doing his best to avoid using his powers because he does not want his life to focus on death. This becomes difficult after a woman, Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), begs him to do a reading in which he uncovers secrets that should not be revealed. Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) are two young English boys dealing with their drug addict mother. When one of the boys is struck by a car and killed, the other goes on a crusade in order to contact him. These paths converge at a critical point, and all the views and beliefs concerning death intersect.

First off, I just want to point out that I love films like this, where there are different story lines that meet at a certain point. The writer is pretty much writing three different movies and then has to connect them in some believable way. The connection in Hereafter is a little weak and delayed compared to most films in this style, but it was still believable if only a little unfulfilling.

 

This movie struck me as dynamically intense, if I may describe it as such. The opening scene with the Thai tsunami was frightening in that it actually happened and many people died in real life. Seeing it so vividly portrayed onscreen gives the viewer a whole new look of it through dramatic presentation. Then the movie gets intense in a much quieter way, with the different characters dealing with a tornado of questions and feelings surrounding loss of a loved one, a ruined history, or a troubled future. These quiet moments are interrupted with spurts of disaster that shows a much darker and violent side to life and death.

The acting in this movie is stunning all around. Damon knocks it out of the park with his performance, making him one of the most relatable characters ever seen on the big screen, despite his supernatural power. Cecile de France matches Damon’s intensity and the McLaren brothers surprise me with their acting chops. In a much more supporting role, Bryce Dallas Howard steals every scene she is in with her lovable personality and her jaw dropping looks. Seriously though, Bryce Dallas Howard…quite the looker.

 

As I said before, Clint Eastwood and writer Peter Morgan deal with death in a spiritual way, but they never get religious or preachy. We hear “Christ” once in the movie while death is being discussed, but it is immediately dismissed. While the idea of God and Jesus is blown over, it doesn’t mean that the movie or its makers don’t have respect for religion. The choice to not use it as a tool or reference point is smart so that many different people, atheists or otherwise, may enjoy this film for its open mindedness and interesting characters.

Eastwood delivers once again with Hereafter, a dynamic, thought provoking, and mature drama that can either make you depressed or hopeful. This isn’t a movie that will go by without discussion or possibly even some inner conflict for the viewer. Hereafter is a film that I would call “required viewing.” Don’t miss this one.