Memories of Murder

Memories of Murder is a movie that boils and bubbles with anxiety and frustration throughout its narrative. Bong Joon-ho has woven a tale with great characters working to solve a string of murders that are based on real murders in South Korea. The film’s visuals are gritty and grounded and provide the story with a tangible feeling of immediacy. The detectives each have their own methods and odd characteristics that clash as the body count rises overtime. The examination of the psychology of the murderer grows more and more desperate as their options run dry.

Song Kang-ho gives the most notable performance in the film as detective Park Doo-man. Song’s overall range and elasticity as a performer jumps brilliantly from slapstick style humor to earnest and deep emotional vulnerability. While the film’s subject is incredibly dark and bleak Bong keeps it light on its feet with moments of comedic wit that never takes away from the urgency of the story. This humor can be felt as the detectives take shots at each other or when they are hopelessly interrogating a subject and make the characters feel lived-in. One moment in particular stands out when Song is determined to find the killer based on whether or not his genitals are shaved, and lounges around a local bathhouse staring at men closely to see.

The use of suspense is very well done and sometimes Bong cuts to sequences following victims before their unfortunate demise. The cinematography captures the landscape with an uncomfortable eeriness and only adds to the frustration of the search. The pressure from the team’s limited resources and manpower makes the investigation harder overtime. This growing frustration puts an emotional strain on the characters and their ability to make the right judgment. The haunting climax of the film is one that asks harder questions about humanity and feels like an open wound.