Saturday, 14 November 2009

Last orders at the blood bank [Review: Thirst]

Thirst (Bakjwi) is a Korean vampire movie directed by Chan-Wook Park and starring Kang-ho Song and Ok-vin Kim. I must be straight with you: due to circumstances beyond my control (and unrelated to the movie) I’ve only seen ¾ of Thirst so cannot comment on the ending.

Sang-hyeon is a priest who becomes a vampire when he is given a vampire blood transfusion while volunteering for a religious virology research project. OK so far? Fresh blood removes his infectious blisters and heals any injuries including those from his self-flagellation. Like Eli in Let The Right One In, Sang-hyeon has a doting father who is willing to let him drink from his veins - he also has access to blood from comatose victims. However his thirst is not only for blood, and this leads him to become involved with Tae-joo, a Cinderella-like figure severely abused by her husband and mother-in-law.

Thirst is, as I'd hoped, a proper adult vampire movie. It is about love - and lust - but it doesn't hold back from the brutal or alien aspects of the situation and is far removed from any teenage will-they-won’t-they drama. It's also about the nature of right and wrong - not the black and white opposites themselves but the path that leads from one to the other.

The film is long but very watchable. There's a lot of beautiful camerawork. The dialogue is moving although occasionally clumsy. Having horrified Tae-joo and scared her away by demonstrating his nature, SH confronts her in her bathroom and pleads with her to accept him in an extremely memorable, riveting scene – while SH’s outbursts are unintentionally comic “Do you think I could have slept with you if I was only a priest?” etc., her terror at being trapped in a nightmarish situation is clear and very moving.

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