Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thirst ***

Director: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin
Shin Ha-kyun, Kim Hae-sook, Eriq Ebouaney

Leave it to Park Chan-wook to take Émile Zola's "Thérèse Raquin" and turn it into a perverse exploration of faith, love and mortality.
Kang-ho stars as Sang-hyun, a Catholic priest who decides to appease his spiritual unease by volunteering for a biological experiment aiming to find a vaccine for the Emmanuel Virus. When his health begins to deteriorate he receives a blood transfusion which helps him make a full recovery.
Being the only person who's survived the virus turns him into a sensation with followers thinking he has healing powers; truth is that the strange blood turned him into a vampire. He begins to have even more spiritual conflicts when his new side makes him develop a "thirst for all sinful pleasures".
He experiences lust with Tae-ju (Ok-bin) the frail wife of his childhood friend Kang-woo (Ha-kyun) who looks after him while he battles cancer. They begin an affair and think of ways to get rid of the husband.
There are two movies in "Thirst", one is the dissection of Zola's classic which itself became a staple for noir cinema and the other is an interesting character study that follows a man's transformation in the midst of moral crisis. Both are strong themes to study and could make great movies on their own; but Chan-wook finds the common thread to link the stories and filters them through naturalism's concept of the human beast.
On one side we have the chilling actions that Tae-ju and Sang-hyun commit in order to fulfill their passion which embody the naturalist approach to a human being who no longer controls his moral center and gives it the qualities of an animal.Then there's the darkly funny side that Sang-hyun has literally become a human beast by turning into a vampire which takes the director's vision into a postmodernist, almost farcical examination of the classics.
It's also interesting that Chan-wook filters this through Catholicism because it gives him an opportunity to make some fascinating points about the Vatican's stand on various issues. If being a vampire is to be compared with a disease like HIV, Chan-wook ingeniously weaves it into the plot without making a big deal out of it (that he named the virus Emmanuel provides deep symbolism and purpose).
When Tae-ju, who doesn't have much sexual experience, wonders if she's a "pervert" for enjoying the way Sang-hyun bites her during sex, she's got nothing on the implications sexuality involves for the priest. It's sad that before long the director seems to give up on the layers he teased us with and concentrates on the "horror" part of the movie.
"Thirst" soon turns into a genre flick with a slightly absurd edge that doesn't diminish its previous achievements but leaves us craving what it could've been like.

1 comment:

Watch Thrist Online said...

The acting is superb, particularly OK-vin Kim, the gorgeous actress in the female lead role who, at 22, shows a range that is remarkable. The character borders on a kind of black widow film noir type