Memories of Murder
When South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film for his film Parasite earlier this year, he rightly stated: “Once you overcome the one inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” The manic cinematic world of Bong has since been discovered by swathes of new audiences, and its popular reception – Parasite is the highest rated narrative feature in the history of the film-based social network Letterboxd – has renewed the appetite for his older works.
Parasite may be his magnum opus, but the 2003 crime thriller Memories of Murder is a masterpiece in its own right that deserves to be revisited on the big screen. It is loosely based on the Hwaseong serial murders of the late 80s, and follows two detectives investigating the growing number of cases of women being raped and murdered, with little in the way of forensic tech to help them. It’s a messy story as far as the pursuit for justice goes, featuring a rail suicide, a complex modus operandi, and the interrogation of a mentally handicapped young man, all under the shadow of a military dictatorship.
Whilst not a traditional horror film, the dark, rainy sights of the countryside validate a certain fear of the outdoors. And, somehow, the director manages to sensitively inject a wicked sense of humour throughout the film, not least in the highly original characterisations of two inept, bumbling detectives at the centre. The great Song Kang-ho (father of the deceptive Parasite family) and his colleague Kim Sang-kyung effortlessly perform in Bong’s unique tonal key.
Memories of Murder is not just a great entry point for newcomers but a fantastic film for fans to revisit. There are so many visual flairs – the fourth wall glance, the rich mise-en-scène, the left/right choice so incredibly analysed by YouTuber Every Frame a Painting – that have been broken down to death on the internet and are never any less powerful or effective in the viewing context. Maybe the only thing worth correcting about this otherwise perfect film is the picture quality, and the cinema release will be a 4K restoration. Watching this special film in the same crystalline quality as Parasite is a brilliant reason for the Bong hive to return to the cinema.
Memories of Murder is released in select cinemas on 11th September 2020.
Watch the trailer for Memories of Murder here: