TORONTO””Park Chan-wook claims he's not sure wherehe gets his fascination with vengeance. But the South Korean director and cowriter of Lady Vengeance, the third part of his revenge trilogy (the first two were Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), is willing to offer a theory.
Lady Vengeance (opening on Friday [June 16]) stars Lee Young-ae””primarily known to Korean audiences as a perky and lovable TV star””as Lee Geum-ja, a beautiful woman who did 13 years in prison for her part in a kidnapping that ended in the death of a child. A criminal–turned–media celebrity in the vein of Karla Homolka, Geum-ja spent her jail time plotting an elaborate, brutal, and poetic revenge against her partner in crime.
“Revenge is not allowed in the civilized world, but we all have anger,” the 42-year-old Park tells the Georgia Straight through a translator, just before his film's North American premiere at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival. “We all feel angry once in a while, or maybe more often. But the anger in our minds does not disappear. It's always there. And I wanted to, maybe through my film, get a kind of catharsis, to get rid of that anger through revenge””which is forbidden in real life. I think that art can do that kind of work.”
Known as Asia's answer to Quentin Tarantino, thanks to his stylish and ironic depictions of violence, Park says that as a child he never responded to unfair situations, but was always fascinated by cruelty. “I was rather reserved and I never expressed anger personally, so maybe I had it bottled up,” he explains. “When I got a bit older, during my university days, I grew up in the years of Korean military dictatorship. So I witnessed violence committed by the government and unfairness. So there was some kind of subconscious violence in me socially that may have triggered my interest in violence.”
During his days at Jesuit-run Sogang University in Seoul, Park studied philosophy while falling in love with the films of Alfred Hitchcock. He doesn't feel his approach to violence or revenge is particularly philosophical, but he suspects that his university studies had some impact on how and why he'll explore a theme in such depth. “I cannot deny that my philosophy background may have trained me to think of a subject and follow a theme thoroughly, to the root. So that training may have helped me to do that.”
Park says the biggest difference between Lady Vengeance and the first two parts of the trilogy is that it explores revenge with a female protagonist. “There are certain acts only a female can show,” he claims. “I think a female has more of a tendency to have a sense of guilt. And it's easier for me to portray it through a female rather than a male character.”