I don't remember when I started to love South Korean films. Perhaps, it was after meeting Kim Ki-duk and his 'Empty House' or it was later, when I became obsessed with Park Chan-wook's masterpieces.
South Korean films for me are completely unique. They can be clever and delicate, brutal and heartbreaking at the same time. Shocking, sharp, horrifying.
I'm going to recommend you two really good films directed by Hong-jin Na. Both of them are really intense and contain a lot of violent scenes. If you're sensitive, better to skip this post.
'The Yellow Sea' (2010)
A city somewhere between China and South Korea. Table, few men and mah-jong. Cab-driver Gu-nam plays carefully, but confident. He's going to loose anyway, even if you hope for his winning.
His wife is gone for quite a long time. She works in South Korea, but Gu-nam hadn't heard a word from her for few month already. Gu-nam gives up everything to go after his wife, because he's tired to 'see' her in the arms of someone else in his nightmares. He forgets about his role of a father, he forgets about rational behaviour. Self-destruction wins.
He plays to get some extra money to be able to find her. But he loses, again and again...
Gu-nam is in a big debt and he's desperate. The 'help' comes from local gangsta: he will forgive Gu-nam his mah-jong debts, make the meeting with his wife possible for one payed little job in Korea. Gu-nam has to kill a man...
'The Yellow Sea' is about a man in wrong place, wrong time. Like a fish on a shore, he's trying to use all his life resources and fight for his safety, his life.
Going through hell, he never looses hope to find what he was searching for. But isn't it just ghost chasing?!
'The Yellow Sea' is really-really intense. Very dynamical, surprising (in a good and in a bad way), with unexpected scenario turns. It's touching, but I'm not even sure why. Perhaps, it's because the story how a small man deals and survives in a world full of betrayal and crime. Fighting with unfairness and fighting with himself...
This is the film, which I mysteriously keep on my hard drive, even if I'm not sure if I ever be ready to watch it again...
Watch it, if you're searching for a high-pressure-giving film.
'The Chaser' (2008)
I still feel cold, when talking about this film. Nothing will never-ever terrify me more, than human equals beast...
Ex-policeman, and today - not really successful pimp, is in a bad mood. His girls are running from him, leaving their job.
It's really hard to give up your old habits. The pimp uses his policeman-sense and finds out, that all his prostitutes had disappeared in the same area.
He sends one of girls for once again to that client, opening by that something incredibly horrifying...
The whole story is a mix of fear, abomination and loathing. 'The Chaser' is like a cold, sticky sweat, which comes when you're going home alone in the darkness and suddenly hear steps behind. It's like seeing completely unfair action, the act of humiliation or violence and being completely not able to help or to do something. It's like to meet stupidity face to face, without ability to prove the truth. It's like a nightmare, when you wanna run, but you can't.
If you seen 'I Saw the Devil' - 'The Chaser' is from the same opera. No one in a whole white world makes so creepy, so scary, so brutal films about serial killers like South Korean or Japanese industries do. The fans of a genre would definitely approve 'The Chaser'.
Impotence of justice, absurd and tragedy. This is what you feel during the film.
Absurd drives this planet.
But in the end - there's light, order and life.
In 'The Chaser' losing is in a very weird way is also finding something really valuable and big...
I would be happy to receive some recommendations for intense and powerful South Korean films.