This film woke me up last night with an insight that Kim Ki-duk’s films are more akin to the horror genera than they are to gangster styled films. The monster is not the lead protagonist Cho Jae-hyun, but the forces that act upon those within the context of a society seemingly ruled by sex and violence.
And I find similarities with horror films because he never seems to die, the story brings us up to a point where we think he will die, and next we know he has recovered; we allow this because we want the story to go further; we don’t want it to end though we suspect it will have to end with him finally dying. And we suspend belief because we really feel he is immortal. I have yet to finish the film, the last section is left for me to watch.
As a viewer you feel horrified by the orchestrated violence much like watching Jason taking out one by one the victims in the movie Halloween. We want to protect those we love and quickly we come to love the silent man and the woman he has forced into prostitution.
Kim Ki-duk conveniently adds what he wants when he wants. Like the strange beach scene where we watch a woman who sits in front of the two main characters and she walks into the ocean to drown herself while they do nothing. But Sun-hwa, the indentured servant, finds where the apparent suicide victim has left in the sand buried a torn up Polaroid of the her and her lover. It was strange that they did nothing, what purpose did this serve. It makes me think of the Greek tragedies where there is of a sudden a plot reversal, or something inserted to bring more force to the story. It is strictly a poetic device. But as well, it is thematic, this subject of suicide for Kim Ki-duk’s films to explore.
In order to live nobly, death has to be viable, has to be an option, a way out when the world we live in bottoms out. This is more in line with Seppuku, part of the samurai bushido honor code. We forget in the west how closely are the ties of the east. Who influence whom? This idea of honor is very real for Kim Ki-duk. That’s why we buy into their world, this dystopian world, this underground existence because we see first hand who is honorable and who is scum.
The concept noble savage comes to mind. The lead character is the same so far in two of Kim Ki-duk’s films but wholly nuanced differently. I feel a kinship with this animal wanting to touch what is beautiful and having to learn to temper his raw desire. I have felt more like an animal in my life than a human. That’s what drives Cho Jae-hyun roles, this movement through the pain of wanting something, not having it and growing towards it.
These films, Bad Guy and Crocodile, both portrey the protagonist, the anti-hero at a moment where growth is required. And the beauty is that he is a latent artist, that beauty touches him in a way he is wiling to stretch what is possible. And what is more beautiful than coming into contact with a woman just as honorable and willing to die and to acknowledge beauty when she sees it.