Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the first of the three masterpieces of the Vengeance Trilogy by the grand master movie director Park Chan-Wook.
I really look forward to the day that Park Chan-Wook will visit the Florence Korea Film Fest. I’ve so many questions to ask about the trilogy. Anyway, moving on…
Our hero here is the deaf-mute Ryu played by actor Shin Ha-Kyun. It follows his resolute search of means of getting money to get his sister a kidney transplant after he was laid off from work.
Since their blood-types don’t match, he had to find a suitable donor. He contacts an illegal organ dealer and he was asked to pay 10 million Korean won, plus one of his kidneys. He agreed to the deal, but after waking up from the operation, he realized that he was cheated by the dealer who ran away with his money and one of his kidneys.
He sought his girlfriend’s help. Indeed, what are girlfriends for? Yeong-mi, an activist and member of a secret terrorist group, conspired with Ryu to kidnap the daughter, Yu-Sun, of a well-to-do businessman, Park Dong-jin (Song Kang-ho), so they can get ransom money.
Now that’s an idea for you especially in times like this. But you know, Fate always plays dirty tricks.
When they finally kidnapped the girl, he brought her to his house and told his sister that he was simply baby-sitting the girl. But soon, his sister found out and was unwilling to be involved in the scheme. She decided to commit suicide.
Ryu was devasted. They went to some far away place in the countryside to bury his sister by the riverbed. He brought the little girl with him. While he was solemnly burying the body, Yu-Sun accidentally slips into the river and drowned.
Now Dong-Jin did some investigation on his own and wanted to get revenge, and finally tracked down Ryu’s apartment. When he came to his apartment, he saw Ryu’s girlfriend and tortured her to extract information from her. Finally she gave in and apologized for the death of his daughter and warned Dong-Jin that he’ll be in big trouble if she gets hurt because she’s a member of a terrorist group. Dong-Jin thought it was a bluff and killed Yeong-Mi.
Ryu returns and finds his girlfriend dead. Now he wants to get even. He was determined to kill Dong-jin.
For many reasons that I’m not eager to write down again because I’m sick of writing this right now, they finally come face to face, right there in the countryside, in the river where Yu-sun drowned and the burial site of Ryu’s sister.
This is one of my favourite scenes (I’m particularly fond of the scene where Ryu massacred mercilessly in a blood bath the thieves who stole his kidney and money. He ate their kidneys. Such sweet revenge. Love it!). Dong-jin realized that Ryu is a good man but he thought killing him would appease his anger. So he killed him mercilessly.
He chopped Ryu’s body and was about to bury his limbs when a group of men suddenly came and killed Dong-jin.
It’s all a series of “cause-and-effect” but manifested from the point of view of Fate. Like I said, once a man took into his hands revenge, it is the beginning of his end. Park Chan-Wook is a genius. The real hero of the story is Fate herself. Everyone is a criminal for having taken the task of avenging loved ones in their own hands, and at the same time, everyone is a hero and a victim because they’re hurt. They want justice and they want revenge.
But they say, Vengeance is not yours, it is God’s business. It’s never easy to say that especially when you lost a loved one and when you’re destitute. The movie maybe violent at times and it may have somehow glorified revenge, but the move speaks truthfully of human realities and emotions. It shows the necessity of revenge to appease our wrath and its futility because in the end, everyone falls into the trap of Fate.
Sad, tragic, bloody, beautiful, awesome.