Thirst (Bakjwi) (2009)
|Year Of Production||2009|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Chan-wook Park|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Trust maverick South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-Wook to provide an interesting twist on the overstuffed vampire genre. Instead of looking to the hip future to re-invigorate the genre he has instead turned to the past, using an old novel by Emile Zola as the template for his film Thirst (Bakjwi).
Many will know Park Chan-Wook from his bloody revenge trio Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Little wonder that Quentin Tarantino is a big admirer of Park as his films too are littered with indiscriminate, stomach-churning acts of violence. Though it deals with horror and death (and undeath!) Thirst is stately and elegiac by comparison to his earlier works.
Sang-Hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a serious young catholic priest. He is devoted to his God, his flock and his ministrations of the sick. Weighed down by the desire to heal in the light of the mysterious and deadly HV virus he volunteers for a secret program where he is introduced to a vaccine for the disease and then the disease itself. Sang-Hyun succumbs to the disease, his body covered in blisters and vomiting torrents of blood, and dies on the sick bed as the health workers try frantically to save him. Trying to invigorate him they infuse him with blood which miraculously brings him back to full health.
As the "one who survived" Sang-Hyun becomes a figure of idolization, with his flock camping outside his monastery. Unfortunately, the reason for his restoration becomes apparent when Sang-Hyun falls sick again and finds that only by drinking blood, and staying out of the light, can he survive. Though wracked with guilt Sang-Hyun behaves as a "responsible vampire" (shades of Twilight!) by only stealing blood where he can do no harm, including taking regular feeds from a coma patient.
An encounter with a childhood friend Kang-woo (Shin ha-Kyun) brings him into a strange world of violence and desire. The sickly Kang-woo lives with his mother Lady Ra (Hae-sook Kim) who protects him like a lioness protects her cubs. A girl abandoned into her care, Tae-ju (Ok-bin Kim), has been forced into marriage with her son. Visiting the family Sang-Hyun is immediately struck by the beauty of Tae-Ju and the pair slowly (he is a man of faith after all) begin an affair. Although initially repulsed by his vampiric revelation Tae-ju becomes entranced by the possibilities of escape. The pair plot to kill Kang-woo, the gentle Sang-Hyun only sold on the deal when Tae-ju shows him the wounds allegedly inflicted on her by her brutal husband. Having done the deed and deposited the body of Kang-woo at the bottom of a lake the pair are free to carry on their torrid love affair - except that their guilt means that the spectral water-logged husband turns up at every opportunity to haunt their lives! Meanwhile Madame Ra has suffered a stroke in response to the death of her son and is an observant, though paralysed, presence in the house, watching the two lovers reveal themselves.
When he kills his lover Sang-Hyun can't resist turning her into a vampire, only for her true self to reveal itself. For Tae-ju is a voracious feeder, killing gleefully and indiscriminately. In this strange night world only Madame Ra and the conscience of Sang-Hyun stands between escape or death and damnation.
If there is a surprise in the telling of Thirst it is that co-screenwriter Park has followed the Emile Zola novel Therese Raquin so closely, including the death in the lake and the pivotal scene of the paralysed mother trying to alert the remaining family at a game night of the true identity of the killers. As a result the story has a real classical air of doomed, crazy love. Song is excellent as the conflicted vampire and young actress Ok-bin Kim makes a good fist of the wilful, dangerous Tae-ju. The film is bloody at times and features a few charged sex scenes. Thirst shared the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Genre fans looking for an orgy of bloodletting may find the pace a little too slow and the tone a bit varied and strange (witness the scene where the mother smells her sons fart to determine the state of his health!). It is about 20 minutes too long and the wild tone shifts suggest that the film can be viewed as a skewed love story as well as a black comedy. But it is hard to deny the poetry and eroticism of the film. Those expecting something as visceral and stunning as Old Boy will , like me, probably be a little disappointed in the film.
Thirst was shot on 35mm film and projected cinematically at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
That ratio has been preserved for this DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.
The film has a stylized look with colours slightly lurid at times. The colours are stable, however, and the level of detail in the film is fine. There is a deliberate murkiness to the blacks to suggest a life or presence just out of frame.
There are no technical defects with the print. It is free of artefacts and compression is no problem.
Flesh tones are subject to the stylization referred to above, often bathed in yellows and blues.
There are subtitles in English which seem to give a clear account of on-screen action. I was concerned that one of Song's first lines is "Absoposilutely" but I guess it was his character trying to be chirpy!
Thirst has both a Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448 Kb/s and a 2.0 track running at 224 Kb/s.
Both are acceptable.
The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, perhaps with the exception of a French actor (speaking in heavily accented English) playing a doctor, who is not subtitled. The actors appear to be in audio sync.
There is a fair amount of ambient sound and sound effects in the film and the 5.1 track has a lot of bangs and crashes. The sub-woofer picks up at times. Altogether a strong mix for the film.
The soundtrack is by Young-ook Cho and is a mix of styles which is appropriate to the tonal shifts in the film.
|Surround Channel Use|
The Region 1 version of this film contains no extras. It is a battle then between no extras and practically no extras. Region 4 by a bat wing.
The vampire genre has had just about every interpretation over the last few years. Thirst is an interesting take on the story but the combination of the classic reluctant beast story and the Zola template makes for an uncomfortable match of murder mystery and reckless love. A strange beast for sure but not without its pleasures.
The picture and sound are pretty good though a few extras would have been nice.
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|