Kim Ji-Woon's I Saw The Devil

By Emma Chu

Which One is Worse?

I Saw The Devil is a Korean psychological thriller, horror film directed by Kim Ji-woon. After it opened on March of 2011 most people found it to be so overwhelming and cruel that they felt it should be banned. Its plot certainly suggests the level of brutality that the film strives for and reaches. The fiancĂ© of the main character, Soo-Hyun, is brutally raped, murdered, and then hacked to pieces by a psychopath named Kyung. The psychopath doesn’t simply end her life, but tortures her beforehand by sticking her into a clear plastic bag so that he can watch her reactions throughout the entire gory killing.

Soo is part of an elite paramilitary police force, which strangely enough is lead by his would be father-in-law. Soo has the resources to discover the identity of the murderer, does so, and immediately begins to devise a plan to satisfy his thirst for revenge. The audience thus far has experienced the horror of the situation through Soo’s eyes and shares in Soo’s anger and sorrows. But the way he goes about getting revenge and what he’ll do to get it forces the audience to question the limits of what a good man can do.

He will get and kill his man: again, and again, and again.

Soo does not want to just kill Kyung, but for him to feel the same degree of terror, pain, and trauma that his fiancĂ© felt, except with even greater force. Soo devises a series of sadistic tortures that turns the tables on Kyung and he’s so successful that the audience starts to feel sorry for the psychopath. Soo develops a pattern of capturing Kyung, takes him to the brink of death, and then sets him free for fun. This creates an environment where Kyung is living in constant fear of when his next encounter with death will be. Soo inserts a tracker in Kyung so that no matter where Kyung tries to hide he can find him. This game of cat and mouse almost seems playful, but the sheer brutality of it takes all the play out of it.

As Soo completely loses himself to rage, the audience starts to view him as the psychopath and Kyung, the psychopath, as a victim. Ji-woon makes you question the very idea of revenge. It is as if he is showing us how dangerous revenge is. By the end of the film, Soo turns into a man of few morals. Ji-Woon clearly wants us to see how far a good person can fall into evil. Soo is a monster, a man with neither morals nor sense, but Ji-Woon has made a disturbing, but moral film, and one that teaches us how to avoid a similar fate.

©Emma Chu and the CCA Arts Review

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