Film Review Friday: Park Chan Wook’s Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

By Daniel Volfson

In this third installment of Park Chan Wook’s vengeance trilogy, a woman is released after enduring thirteen years of prison for a crime that she did not commit. She spends her prison days calculating and planning the revenge she plans to exact on those who have wronged her. Seductive and conniving, she gains the loyalty of her fellow inmates who, upon her release, congregate and assist her in the kidnapping of Mr.Baek, a man who once was her high school teacher. Through a series of revelations and flashbacks, Chan-Wook reveals the grotesque identity of this seemingly innocent-looking schoolteacher.

In addition to being a story of revenge, it’s also a story about the ways in which people can irreversibly transform.

We see how a somewhat reserved and timid girl becomes possessed by an unrelenting compulsion for revenge. This film does not deal with the moral implications of revenge; it is a stylistically rich film that aims to shock and disturb us. At the same time, these shocks are not merely gimmicks in and of themselves; they amass with every turn until the almost unendurable finale.

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