Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

I’m going to go back to 2002 to mention a Korean horror film that brings on screen a strange mixture of bloodshed and human relationships.   I’m talking about “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” written and directed by Chan-wook Park.  This dark and intricate story takes place in Seoul and revolves around a deaf young man named Ryu who wants to help his sick sister, who lives in pain most of the time. In order to find her a new kidney, he has to come up with uncomfortable — and illegal — solutions.  His anarchist girlfriend convinces him to kidnap the daughter of his former employer in order to get the money for his sister’s kidney. Soon after the kidnapping episode, the story explodes into a series of absurd deaths that seem to be provoked by the twisted hands of destiny, rather than murderous human hands. As the title mentions, most of the characters win the viewer’s sympathy through their everyday actions.   Some miscalculated deeds trigger bad events, but by that point, Ryu and other characters have already lost control of the situation. The one steady thing throughout the film is the relationship between Ryu and his girlfriend.   They share a strong connection that can be traced back to elementary school. Park creates a nice duality between Ryu’s silent world and the chaotic life of Seoul where misery seems to know no bounds. In one of the scenes, Ryu is having a conversation with a doctor while facing the window through which we see the pouring rain.   For a couple of seconds we hear the outside world where the sound of the rain blends with police sirens. “Sympathy for Mister Vengeance” is the first film of the Vengeance Trilogy, and it’s a story that takes the viewer through all sorts of dark corners and cinematic thrills.