Friday, September 29, 2006

A Bittersweet Life = King Kong


I rewatched A Bittersweet Life the other day and realised what the story's dynamic reminds me of. Allow me a moment off this blog's political raison d'etre.

**Spoiler Warning - I'll try to avoid giving away too much but you might miss out on a little suspense if you read this before watching the film**

A Bittersweet Life is the story of Kim Sun-Woo, a middle ranking mobster and hotel manager. While his boss, Kang, is out of town Sun-Woo is asked to keep an eye on Hee-Soo, the boss's much younger girlfriend and to kill her if he discovers her to be cheating. As all this unfolds the other strand to the story, a confrontation between Kang's empire and Baek Jr., a competitor, is putting Sun-Woo in danger as the two crime families face off.

The climactic moments of the film then ensue as Sun-Woo is first enchanted by Hee-Soo and then disobeys his orders as a result. The rest of the film is the consequence of this act as Kang punishes him for his disobedience and then Sun-Woo responds.

I think this story has a lot in common with King Kong. Both heroes start out invincible and wild. Kong's wildness is massive and brutal and obvious. Sun-Woo makes beating up other mobsters look easy and has his boss's complete support. The shadow boxing at the end of the film is intended to highlight this earlier personality I believe.

Beauty then changes them both. Kong finds something he cannot let go of and is made vulnerable. Sun-Woo is shocked out of the warped morality of the mobster and is unable to do what he needs to do in order to remain safe in that world.

Beauty kills both beasts. This is the cruelty that Sun-Woo refers to with his last breath in A Bittersweet Life. Both are shown a glimpse of something beautiful but it is not something they can reconcile with the brutality of their existences and it will destroy them both.

16 comments:

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