As much as Park Chan-wook's films entertain us, they also probe with probity our culture of violence. While I haven't seen Oldboy, I think that Thirst is his most character-driven, mature and subtle work.
The film introduces us to Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho), a Catholic priest. Even though the world depresses him, Sang-hyun is well respected in his community, because of his obvious faith and the time he gives for suffering people. One day, this man makes a trip in Africa to take part in a medical experiment. The objective of the latter is to find a vaccine to a deadly virus. However, this experiment fails and Sang-hyun is the sole survivor of it. Back in South Korea, Sang-hyun discovers that the virus has made him a vampire. Instead of killing people to get his fix of blood, Sang-hyun gets it by drinking blood by licking the wounds of unconscious patients or by drinking from an infusion tube for patients in a coma for instance.
This goes without saying that even though he left his priesthood behind, Sang-hyun doesn't want to kill anyone. Besides, he's been having sexual relations with Taeju (Kim Ok-bin), a despondent woman who wants to kill her husband (Shin Ha-kyun) and her mother-in-law (Kim Hae-sook). While Taeju was dying, Sang-hyun saves her by making her drink his blood, because he doesn't want to be alone. As a result of that, Taeju becomes a vampire. Unfortunately, Sang-hyun will have regrets, because while he believes that killing is not an option to get blood, Taeju, on the other hand, finds so much pleasure in killing.
First of all, those who are fascinated by vampires should be elated, because Thirst introduces us to two vampires who have no business being exposed to the sunlight. Despite its subject matter, Thirst, doesn't just merely contents itself with displaying Sang-hyun's ability to keep his wildest penchants in check and Taeju's justification of violence. As a matter of fact, the use of two vampires as the leading protagonists brilliantly serves as a metaphor for our desire to feel superior (or even invincible) to the rest of the society. With that said, Park's marvellous writing shows us that the evolution of Taeju from a despondent person to a vampire has definitely made her lose her humanity.
As another film about violence, Thirst is the best film I've seen from South Korean director Park Chan-wook. As much as Thirst will appeal to fans of violent films, it will also seduce cinephiles who like subtlety. Besides, the sick performance by Kim Ok-bin is worth your time because of her knack for finding the right tone to look like a psychopath.
|Origin:||South Korea (2009)|
|Screenplay:||Jeong Seo-Gyeong and Park Chan-wook|
|Starring:||Song Kang-ho and Kim Ok-bin|