Movie Discussion: Park Chan-wook’s Thirst [Bakjwi] (2009)

  • Monthly Theme: Vampiresthirst 2
  • The Film: Thirst
  • Country of origin: South Korea
  • South Korean title: Bakjwi
  • Date of South Korean release: April 30, 2009
  • Date of U.S. release: July 31, 2009
  • Studio: Focus Features International, et al.
  • Distributer: Focus Features (subtitled)
  • Domestic Gross: $228,000
  • Budget: $5 million (estimated)
  • Director: Park Chan-wook
  • Producers: Ahn Soo-hyun, et al.
  • Screenwriters: Jeong Seo-gyeong & Park Chan-wook
  • Adaptation? Yes, of the 1867 novel Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola.
  • Make-Up/FX: Lee Hee-eun, et al.
  • Music: Jo Yeong-wook
  • Part of a series? No.
  • Remakes? No.
  • Genre Icons in the cast? Yes. Korean genre star Song Kang-ho (The Host, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, etc.)
  • Other notables?: No.
  • Awards?: Netpac Award at the 2009 Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival. Best Visual Effects at the 2010 Asian Film Awards. Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Grand Prize at the 2010 Fantasporto. Best Actress [Kim Ok-bin] at the 2009 Sitges-International Film Festival.
  • Tagline: n/a
  • The Lowdown: The film’s director, Park Chan-wook, is most famous for his “Vengeance” trilogy: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003) and Lady Vengeance (2005). Thirst stars Song Kang-ho (who also starred in 2006’s monster movie epic The Host, which Kristine and I watched last year) as a Catholic priest named Sang-hyun, who volunteers for a medical experiment that accidentally turns him into a vampire. He then embarks on a love affair with the unhappy wife (Kim Ok-bin) of a childhood friend.

If you haven’t seen Thirst our discussion will include massive SPOILERS. 

Sean: So, let’s take a few minutes to give our first impressions? What did you think overall?

Kristine: This is one of my favorites that we have watched. I loved it.

Sean: That whole silent 10 minutes of them fighting over the car in the end is amazing, right? The movie relies on purely visual storytelling in a way that I find really exciting.

Kristine: It was basically the same ending as 30 Days of Night, right?

Sean: It was a lot like 30 Days of Night… But I thought this was way better and sadder.

Kristine: I really loved the filmmaking, even if the story line was paternalistic. It was still moving and engaging.

Sean: Yeah. It’s sort of sexist…

Kristine: It is totally sexist. But both leads were great.

Sean: Tae-ju is so amazing. I really think the actress playing her, Kim Ok-vin, gave one of the best performances ever, and despite the sexist weirdness, I choose to see it as her movie. I just relate to her wildness and her anger so much more than the Sang-hyun’s weird cold organizing clinical bullshit.

Kristine: Me, too. The step mom was great, too. And the grody, snotty son…

Sean: I love the blend of high melodrama with camp, gore and horror. But I seriously don’t get that tent rape scene at the end. He like, stops to rape a stranger? It is so weird.

Kristine: I thought he was doing it so the other people would come and arrest them so they couldn’t kill more people…

Sean: Um…..

Kristine: But then the crowd did nothing.

Sean: Weird.

Kristine: They just threw stones?

Sean: Yeah, ew.

Kristine: I thought it was a sabotage thing. I dunno.

Sean: Well, besides that – wasn’t it so visual and cinematic and inventive? So many great touches: when he first turns and he can see her veins through her skin, or the blind guy reaching into his chest, or the sudden super-close-ups of the skin lice. The meowing cat was ridic…

Kristine: All were great. I especially loved the amplified sound effects. It reminded me of gross drug experiences. And what about the three-way?

Sean: Which three way? Oh with the ghost of the drowned uggie?

And uggie makes three

Kristine: Yes, the three-way with her, him, and the uggie. That was great.

Sean: That snotty, gross uggie…

Kristine: I also loved all the film noir aspects.

Sean: And all the surreal dream-like elements, like all the water spewing from nowhere… So wonderful. Is Tae-ju the best female character we’ve seen in a horror movie yet?

Kristine: She is pretty fucking great.

Sean: Interesting. I didn’t think of the movie having film noir aspects but it totally does.

Kristine: Right. I am right. It’s all The Postman Always Rings Twice. Or, Raymond Chandler does horror.

Old-fashioned glamour: men grabbing ladies possessively

Sean: I think all the boils and disease and stuff was very Cronenberg, also.

Kristine: Totally.

Sean: And then when he’s bandaged, it’s like The Invisible Man from the ’30s and ‘40s. So many visual shout-outs to other horror movies; lots of visual references. The shoes were my favorite motif, and then it culminates in the ending image of the shoes and ashes.

Kristine: The shoes reminded me the most of Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Sean: I hate that. Don’t ever mention Jeunet again. Remember when we took our mothers to see Micmacs? And it was like being raped?

Kristine: Oh my god, that movie. I am a little hung over from too much red wine and you’re making me laugh which is hurting my head.

Sean: Lovely.

Kristine: I may puke on my laptop.

Sean: Well, I’m still digesting a pie so we’re even. All right, down to business: Let’s talk about Sang-hyun’s hair.

Kristine: Oh my God, you are obsessed. I forgot your obsession with men’s hair styles.

Sean: It was extremely good hair and it made his character arc.

Kristine: That’s true.

Sean: Seriously, doesn’t he start the movie as a fatty-faced uggie? And then – boom –  he’s hot, all thanks to his hair.

Kristine: Yes, the transformation of both characters was very good. Tae-ju is such a mopey-faced waif at the start.

Sean: They’re both sincerely dumpy at the beginning.

Kristine: I would have to say yes.

Sean: And by the end they’re hot. The message of Thirst: Quit being ugly.

Kristine: And quit servicing others and help your damn self. Homely ain’t the move, says Chan-wook.

Sean: So this was our first vamp movie in the Dracula-esque romantic tradition… Because 30 Days of Night was inspired by the more ghoulish, unsexy Nosferatu-type vampire…. What did you think of that?

Kristine: Here is my conflict: I love the movie, and I loved both leads, but it is profoundly sexist, no?

Sean: Aren’t all romantic vamp stories?

Kristine: I don’t think True Blood is.

Sean: I actually see a lot of parallels to Interview with the Vampire here. In that story, Claudia is the Tae-ju character, the one who gets turned and then goes apeshit and has to be “put down.” At least Sang-hyun had the decency to kill himself as well.

Kristine: Right. So these stories put female hysteria at the center of the narrative, and posit the idea that females are more amoral and pleasure-seeking then men. Remember, Tae-ju likes the sex even before she was vampified.

Sean: Yeah, and Sang is repressed and doesn’t get kinky till he vamps out.

Kristine: And, like Claudia, it wasn’t her choice to get turned, and then she was judged and exterminated.

Insatiable she-creature

Sean: But she is into it as a human.

Kristine: Right.

Sean: The problem here is that both Claudia and Tae-ju are far superior to the men in the stories and yet the story

Bad girls have bruised flesh

destroys them and I hate it.

Kristine: What did you think about the sex scenes?

Sean:The sex scenes were good. I really like how the sex scenes serve a narrative purpose.

Kristine: I absolutely agree. They are essential.

Sean: Hollywood movies are just like, look at them there, grinding in the sheets. It’s all spectacle.

Kristine: Yes yes yes.

Sean: But these sex scenes – without forsaking any “explicitness” – manage to forward the plot, not stall it. They’re scenes that really reveal character.

Kristine: Okay, here is my question: Does the film realize Tae-ju is superior and that the story is sexist, therefore making the film a feminist masterpiece? Or does it side with Sang-hyun, the Exterminator of Women?

Sean: Hmmm….. I think that’s a complicated question to answer, because it forces us to address the movie’s weird fetishization of Catholicism and masochism and the idea of martyrdom.

Kristine: Yes, good point. But forcing someone else to die with you is not being a martyr, it’s being a dick.

Sean: True. His self-destructive impulses include misogyny. And that weird tent-rape… I can’t let it go.

Kristine: Well, I also see an Adam and Eve thing – he ‘created’ her from his body and so she is an extension of him. Then to fully destroy himself he must also destroy her, right?

Sean: Yes to the Adam and Eve parallels. And she is unchecked and impulsive like all “bad” girls in those kinds of stories.

Kristine: Yes. It is totally an Adam and Eve story.

Sean: I think the movie might find her rawness and animalism problematic but I fucking love it. She is amazing. When she lets herself get hit by the car and then throws the guy in the woods?

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: Amazing. But even that has these weird masochistic undertones… She chooses to stage a scene that centers on her “getting hit” and seemingly killed. Women who love to get hit…that’s a problem.

Kristine: Yeah, she didn’t have to do that to get a human. Okay, that last scene, with the mother-in-law as witness…

Sean: The film’s final 15 minutes, that whole practically silent sequence, was the thing that resonated in my memory from the first time I saw it. I think it’s honestly one of the most impressive sequences in the films – never mind just the horror movies – of the last 15 or 20 years. And I love how the movie really uses visual storytelling throughout, as I stated before.

Kristine: Well, it’s interesting that it had such an impact on me, since it is exactly like the end scene in 30 Days of Night…except 10,000 times better.

Sean: Yeah the end of 30 Days of Night is like, oh no Josh Hartnett is dead. It’s hard to care too much about Josh Hartnett. But the end of Thirst has the absolute right balance of tragedy and horror, and we care about these characters, even Sang-hyun. I think there are nods to Buster Keaton-style silent cinema in the whole way the sequence is imagined, the shoes and such.

Film audiences to Josh Hartnett: “We aren’t sad when you die.”

Kristine: I agree about the shoe motif, and I loved the musical choices throughout the movie.

Sean: The thing I love about South Korean horror is how committed it is to the high melodrama of horror. See also, The Host; see also, A Tale of Two Sisters. All these movies really play up the operatic emotion of the story, and don’t care about “taste” or “refinement” in terms of staging emotion. It’s all huge, it’s all flourish.

Kristine: This was actually a very, very old fashioned movie.

Sean: Yes. So old fashioned. And that’s a compliment.

Kristine: Melodrama…film noir…femme fatale.

Sean: But didn’t it represent the transformation of being a vamp better than any other vamp movie ever? And really invest in putting you into the experience of it? Those veins, all the sensory changes….

Kristine: The storyline (sans vampirism) is almost exactly that of The Postman Always Rings Twice, I’m telling you.

Sean: Total Postman. It is so much about the subjectivity of being a vamp, plus good hair.

Behold the hair

Kristine: Yes to all that, but stop with the hair. Did you catch the full frontal male nudity?

Sean: Yes. But it was following the tent-rape. I hated that tent-rape. I love the length (no pun intended) and excess of Thirst, but that scene needed to be cut.

Kristine: Wait, one more thing on the parallel with Postman – Tae-ju’s plan does not fully formulate until she hears Monster-in-Law say she will leave the business to her.

Sean: Right.

Kristine: Because until then she could have just run away…

Sean: But the thing is, isn’t she like a Dark Cinderella?

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: Because the ugly son and his mother are horrible, and in the Grimm’s “Cinderella,” the wicked stepmother and sisters pay.

Kristine: Ha ha, yes.

Sean: The incestuous gross fart-sniffing mother-son bond between them is gloriously perverse. But then the movie weirdly tries to make the uggie son sympathetic.

Kristine: Well, I think the movie does that with the son to show how Tae-ju is not that innocent.

Sean: But she is right to be repulsed by him: he is repulsive. The fact that the movie would ask us to judge her for that is bullshit.

Kristine: Also, you’re right that the tent scene is very confusing. I don’t think it was a rape from vampire desire. I think it was a tactic of some sort.

Sean: That whole subplot of the tent-village… Did you get that those were supposed to be his followers? Because he spontaneously healed from the disease?

Kristine: Right, I think Sang-hyun staged the rape to stop their faith in him because his faith is gone, too, and he needs for them to stop believing in him before he goes off to kill himself…

Sean: Dumb. All the faith stuff = dumb. I hate “Catholic” horror movie messages.

Kristine: Remember Sang-hyun’s little smile when he walks away from the tent city?

Sean: Stupid. I hated it.

Kristine: Yeah, it’s kind of an easy road to take because Catholicism itself is so gothic and creepy and full of blood.

Sean: The rest of the movie is so personal and intimate, that the whole “community” subplot was dumb. I liked the blind mentor subplot better.

Kristine: Yeah. Did you think those scenes with his priest/mentor person were affecting?

Sean: Yes and I found that scene of the mentor reaching his hand into Sang-hyun’s wound and holding his heart to be very queer and gloriously weird and O.T.T. in a way that American movies would avoid. At least, studio-made movies would. But the obvious Christ imagery there: the wound in the side and all the supplication and shit. I don’t know, I just fucking hate the movie’s message. It’s making me mad to think about it.

Kristine: Right. Back to the Catholic thing, a lot of the blood-letting scenes were very “taking and giving the communion,” body and blood of christ, blah blah blah.

Sean: Yes, though using the IV line as a slurpee straw = brilliant and funny and creepy. The movie is so inventive.

Vampire as human tampon

Kristine: And the interchange between the priest and parishioner – a kind of 69, which we saw over and over in the movie.

Sean: That’s why the banal message is so disappointing. Yes, very queer.

Kristine: I loved slurping the blood through the straw.

Sean: I’ve never seen a Korean film flirt so openly with gay subtext before that didn’t have a ‘gay” character.

Kristine: Remember when dead son is between them when they are having sex, so it looks like the priest is penetrating him?

Sean: Yes – amazing and hilarious. The movie is very funny, actually.

Kristine: That scene.

Sean: A great sense of the absurd.

Kristine: I thought my eyes were deceiving me, Sean.

Sean: Have we mentioned that the actor playing the son = revolting?

Kristine: His face. His snot-covered face.

Sean: Snotty. Horrible. Revolting.

Kristine: The snot was such a simple but effective way of totally summing up that character.

Sean: What about that initial scene where he grabs Tae-ju and tickles her and she falls on the floor? And then she raises her hand like she’s going to smack him?

Kristine: And then she wipes his nose instead? Amazing.

Sean: It’s like, what the hell was that about?

Kristine: Well, that scene is important because we realize that she is angry and wrathful before her transformation.

Sean: I love her anger.

Kristine: The vampirism doesn’t change her character…

Sean: I love her rage.

Kristine: It just allows her to act upon it….

Sean: She should be pissed.

Kristine: I agree.

Sean: She’s an indentured servant. The movie should have gone like this: Tae-ju destroys everybody and runs away and Sang-hyun all sadly burns in the sun. The end.

Kristine: Her rage really shows when she does not have sympathy for Evelyn. I thought it was an interesting and good choice that she does not have mercy for Evelyn.

Sean: Evelyn? Is that snothead?

Kristine: No, that is the other guy’s wife…

Sean: Oh right. Yeah, can you unpack that for me? Because Evelyn’s suffering is my least favorite moment as an audience member (outside of tent-rape). I hated being forced to watch her suffer.

Kristine: Well, I think even though Evelyn is “harmless,” Tae-ju hates her for not being angry and wrathful about their shared situation.

Sean: Right.

Kristine: She is disgusted by Evelyn.

Sean: So, Tae-ju’s not exactly a feminist-consciousness-raising psychopath. She’s all id.

Kristine: Yes. And I didn’t mind that scene of Evelyn getting tortured at all, for the record. I was all right with Evelyn suffering.

Kristine to all women: “I support the violation and torture of you.”

Sean: Well, more power to Tae-ju, then. I actually love the ending, but would have liked it more if we’d gotten there by a different route. I mean, the film is a tragedy because  Tae-ju is killed, right? Not because of Sang-hyun’s emo/patriarchal suffering crap…

Kristine: I think, yes, we can read it that way.

Sean: She is this raw, new, alive person and Sang-hyun kills her just as she is awakened and empowered. Her struggle to survive is what makes that silent ending so fucking amazing…

Kristine: One thing I did not like was her ultimate acceptance of her fate. She becomes a fatalist, and says, “Well, it was fun.” And basically grants him permission to kill her and embraces him. Instead of yelling, “Fuck you, I want to live!” She does the priestly thing where she absolves him of the sin of killing her. She tells him it’s all right. Hate that.

Sean: But the staging of their death is actually very visually clever. Here’s the thing: why not dive into the water and go all the way to the deep part until nightfall? The sun would be refracted and mitigated, right?

Kristine: That scene is amazing because she is literally fighting for her life anyway she can – but it is still highly comic, right? When he rolls the car off her and she crosses her arms all huffy?

Sean: So comic and so visually inventive… Amazing.

Kristine: Like an old married couple, all exasperated.

Sean: Totally, but the gender dynamic is so fucktarded.

Kristine: I thought about that water option, too….

Sean: Her relinquishing at the end sucks terribly badly but this movie loves martyrdom and masochism, right? So of course it imagines her giving in. I mean, can we be frank that there’s a pleasure and a power that comes from masochism?

Kristine: Yes, we can agree that masochism is pleasurable.

Suicide is painless…

Sean: But I do not get the movie’s Catholic spin on that idea.

Kristine: I wanted her screaming to live until the end. Did you notice only she was screaming as the sun burnt them? He was silent and loving it.

Sean: The “Well, it was fun” is a kind of resistance though, right? She refuses to admit fault or ask forgiveness for herself.

Kristine: That’s true, but I still hate that she “comes around” to his actions.

Sean: And I thought all the soft tissue damage – the thigh beatings, the fishhook in the earlobe – was weird.

Kristine: Yeah.

Sean: I love that this vamp movie is also a “body-horror” movie in the Cronenberg mold as well. Not many vamp movies go that route.

Kristine: The movie is very…wet. Lots of bodily fluids in addition to blood.

Sean: The movie is about bodies. It’s a very hermaphroditic movie.  And it is wet. Tae-ju’s calluses vanishing as she’s turned into a vampire is one of my favorite little details.

Kristine: I loved the callous thing as well; a great way to show her being reborn.

Sean: Those calluses vanishing is all about her indentured servitude being over.

Kristine: Exactly. Her rebirth into a new body without the pains of her human form. Ok. One questionable scene – do you think it was necessary to have her go have sex with that dude? And do you think part of why Sang-hyun decided she needed to be destroyed was because of her infidelity? Does he totally see her as a threat to society or is part of it that he personally judges and disapproves of her?

Sean: I actually don’t remember her fucking someone else… Who is it again?

Kristine: Some random dude she fucks like five times. And then Sang-hyun sniffs her in the street and he knows?

Sean: I have no memory of that. I remember Sang-hyun sniffing her though.

Kristine: Right after that is the decline of their relationship.

Sean: Weird. Is the random guy hot?

Kristine: That’s why he is sniffing her, he smells the sex on her. It is important cause it shows his judgment of her. And no, the guy’s not hot.

I smell what you did last summer

Sean: I’m not sure when Sang-hyun decides to destroy her. I think it has to do with how she is acting after he turns her. I guess my answer is yes, her fucking some random probably has to a lot to do with it.

Kristine: She is about anarchy in all ways.

Sean: All her carnal impulses are in overdrive.

Kristine: Not just drinking human blood, but all of it. And Sang-hyun don’t like that. Papa no likey-likey.

Sean: But I wish she’d fucked more hot guys then. What do you think of Sang-hyun’s man-gina? His mentor fisting his heart?

Kristine: I thought that scene was amazing. I did not pick up on the gay undercurrent as much as you. I just thought: sexual. Not necessarily gay-sual…

Sean: I’m struck by what a genderfuck the scene is. He has this wound and the man is penetrating it. I love that – the permeability of bodies…

Kristine: I see it now that you point it out. Ugh. I hate it when people call vaginas “wounds.” “Gash.”

Sean: Sorry, I don’t mean to imply that.

Kristine: It’s okay, but…the movie does.

Sean: I do mean to imply that it’s a moment of intimacy that’s being staged as bodily and about pleasure and control. Remember he says, “Ow you’re squeezing my heart too hard.” So it’s like, the mentor is being rough with him.

Kristine: It’s so intimate. You can’t get more intimate than that.

Sean: It’s an unusual situation for a movie to put its male hero in – even a vampire movie – to have the hero “bottom” so openly.

Kristine: Yes. Tell me what you think about his decision to kill the mentor.

Sean: Well, that also was very menstrual. He opens up this hot gushing fountain wound and all slurps it up. Basically, I’ve decided that all vampire movies are about fear of vaginas. They’re also about the allure of blood – hot, gushy, open, syrupy blood holes. The movies are all like “I want to put my mouth on your bloody hole. Let me drink from your hot, soupy bloodhole.”

Kristine: So, is that really a fear of vaginas?

Sean:  I only say fear because all vamp movies have to destroy the vamps at the end. So, back to the Gothic romantic tradition of vampires…. What do you think of it? Obviously you’ve seen Bram Stoker’s Dracula by Francis Ford Coppola. What other ones have you seen?

Kristine: Wait, real quick: even though I thought Thirst is a much better movie, one thing I really liked about 30 Days of Night was how feral and gross the vampires were. The Nosferatu model, as you say.

Sean: That’s what I was wondering. Do you prefer the feral vamps to the sexy ones?

Kristine: Thirst vamps are pretty traditional, which is what made the “modern day” touches really fun and lively, like the sucking of blood through the IV.

Sean: But Thirst is the best at conveying what a psychedelic experience vamping out is….

Kristine: I don’t know which I prefer. The howling of the vamps in 30 Days of Night and their gruesome teeth were really visually arresting. Like, holy fucking shit.

Sean: Right.

Kristine: Here’s the thing: you would never want a 30 Days of Night vamp to get you. Whereas sexy vamps: bite away.

The Anti-Semite’s Boogeyman

Sean: You know that it is often said that the original Nosferatu (by Murnau) was meant as an allegory for the “unclean” Jews “infesting” Germany…

Kristine: Oh God….

Sean: Remember, the movie came out pre-Nazis.

Kristine: Here we go.

Sean: It is said, is all. So I guess what I’m wondering is, are Nosferatu-type stories working out different anxieties than the Gothic sexies?

Kristine: I believe so, yes.

Sean: Or are they the same story told differently? Because in 30 Days of Night the vampire threat is so alien and external and “Other.”

Kristine: Yes, and also ancient – remember their weird scary language? But I might need to see more movies in order to judge that question.

Sean: I love that language. In Thirst, it’s just you on crank. A vamp is just a person on crank…

Kristine: Right. God, the 30 Days of Night vampires were scary. For a “meh” movie there were some really great parts to that film.

Sean: So besides FFC’s Dracula what have you seen, for Gothic sexies?

Kristine: DraculaTrue Blood…. That’s it, I think.

Sean: No Buffy?

Kristine: No Buffy. Are they sexy in Buffy?

Sean: I guess they’re both. Yes they’re sexy, but then they get demon faces that are kind of “ew.”

Kristine: What are the other main Gothic sexy vamp movies?

Sean: Oh so many. Any of the countless Draculas over the years… Lots of lesbian vampire movies like The Hunger and Daughters of Darkness and stuff like that. But Frank Langella as ‘70s Drac was notable. I guess there’s lots that combine the two, like the original Fright Night (both sexy and feral, depending). Near Dark is like, gritty-sexy.

Kristine: I have seen none of those.

Sean: So what would our ideal vampire movie be like? Would it be all satin sheets and hot fucking? Or feral monsters?

Kristine: Well, in Thirst, once they turn vamp the sex is not hot.

Sean: Right. Actually, the scientific origins of the disease in Thirst were unusual and kind of cool. The “boil” makeup made me want to gag and vomit and die. I think our next vampire movie needs to be a lesbian vampire show.

Kristine: The idea is that, like with the blood, vamps can never get their fill so it is joyless and well, unfulfilling. Just a bodily function. Drink blood, fuck, blah blah. She mechanically fucks the ugly dude five times, joylessly.

Sean: A-ha. So sex was hotter when she was alive…

Thirst to audiences: “Dominant women are monsters, just fyi…”

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: But he seems to enjoy fucking her when she’s alive and he’s a vamp.

Kristine: True. I thought the origin story and boils were cool, too. But do you think they are necessary to explain why Sang-hyun initially starts sucking blood or do you think it is an easy out for him because he has to suck blood to survive the disease? Also, (and I just thought of this), isn’t the final death scene unnecessary? Couldn’t he just lock them up somewhere with no access to blood? Then they would have died from the disease? Dramatic sunlight burning was really not necessary…but much more martyr-like that way.

Sean: Well, remember how the movie opens with that dying man giving a monologue about eating cake? The movie sets up right away the tension between body and spirit.

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: I think the science stuff is there to make him a martyr from the beginning, not necessarily as an excuse. But isn’t it that he can’t accept the martyrdom? He won’t succumb to the disease and so drinks blood and that’s what makes him “bad.” He’s “good” when he’s willing to sacrifice himself.

Kristine: Right.

Sean: So I think the blood drinking is the metaphor for his desperate will to live and not be “unclean.”

Kristine: Which he is not supposed to have. He is not a martyr.

Sean: Right. Remember the gushing bloodflute? The menstruating phallus?

Kristine: Oh my god that scene was amazing.

Sean: So when he was mortal and ill, the blood came out. When he’s not-mortal…

Kristine: ..then the blood flows IN. Right you are. So Catholic. And this is Korean, right?

Sean: Yes, South Korean.

Kristine: Korea is super Catholic, I believe.

Sean: There’s some link to Africa in the origin story for the disease.

Kristine: Of course. Monkey disease….missionaries….blah blah.

Sean: It only affects Asians/Causcasians, right?

Kristine: I am over that.

Sean: So, would you become a vamp if you knew you’d have great hair for eternity?

Kristine: Yes. I thought the movie’s totally non-goth music choices were excellent and effective.

Sean: Oh agreed.

Kristine: Especially during the rooftop chase scene.

Sean: The worst thing for a horror movie is trying to be “gothic.” The score for Thirst is just old-school cinematic; more Hitchcock than anything.

Kristine: Other directors would have used some dum dum dramatic scary music.

Sean: Wow, I’m still surprised you liked the movie so much.  Going in I was worried you’d be unmoved.

Kristine: Thirst is really really good. I really loved it. It is interesting how the matriarch in the movie goes from being a buffoon to having gravitas and bearing witness. And that her life is valued in the movie.

Sean: Yes, I thought that was interesting too. But…um…didn’t they kind of leave her to die in that car? Of like… thirst?

Kristine: No, remember, he put the cell phone in her hand?

Sean: Oh I forgot.

Kristine: Yeah, so she can call 911, or whatever they have in Korea to rescue oldies.

Sean: Yeah but she can’t talk.

Kristine: Eh, they can track her down.

Sean: The movie is, to me, miles better than Let the Right One In, which we still have to watch and is great but…

Kristine: Why was it necessary to have the mother-in-law bear witness?

Sean: What I hate about her witnessing is that it drives home that this is about punishing Tae-ju and ultimately reveals the movie’s conservatism because that mother is part of a traditional, sexist, weirdly misguided social system.

Kristine: It is important for Sang-hyun that the mother-in-law knows that he is killing Tae-ju.

Sean: Right.

Kristine: Remember when he looks up from drinking Tae-Ju’s blood and sees the mother-in-law watching him and he is freaked out? Ugh, he sucks.

Sean: Can I just say, remember when Tae-ju punches the guy’s head off? And it falls back off his shoulders?

Kristine: No. In the woods?

Sean: In front of the mother. In the dinner party scene when they slaughter everyone and Evelyn…

Kristine: Oh yeah.

Sean: The Hitchcock sequence where the party guests are trying to decode the mother-in-law’s message.

Kristine: Yes yes….

Sean: That sequence was so Hitchcock right? Then it explodes into violence…

Kristine: Totally.

Sean: Well, I’m delighted that you loved it.  What’s the final word?  What’s your rating of the movie?

Ratings Roundup

The Girl rates Thirst: Masterpiece!

The Freak rates Thirst: Masterpiece!


9 thoughts on “Movie Discussion: Park Chan-wook’s Thirst [Bakjwi] (2009)

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