31 August, 2011

A Bittersweet Life (Korean)

Another Korean film. Another masterpiece. If I were to sum up A Bittersweet Life, I would say that it is a perfect amalgamation of different film genres. Just like its main character, Kim Sun-woo, the movie at first has the feel of a Gangster drama. Take a look deeper inside and you know that at the heart of it, it's a beautifully "unspoken" love story. Go further into the soul and you realize that it is a purely action filled revenge film.

The story isn't complex. It has its small twists, but focuses more on the characters. The film is more about human nature and how our ego, stubbornness, and sometimes the simplest of acts can be our own downfall. Taking care of his Boss' "young girlfriend", Heesoo (Shin Min-a), Kim Sun-woo (Lee Byung-hun) fails to inform his boss that she has been having an affair behind his back. This leads to his boss Kang (Kim Yeong-choel) taking out his anger on Kim by severely beating him and then slowly starts torturing him to death. This forms the premise of the film. What happens next is no surprise but still worth watching rather than me telling.

A Bittersweet Life is gruesome. There are scenes that make you cringe. There is blood, and lots of it. Still, amongst all the bloodshed there is certain harmony to everything. There are memorable scenes, one being the final talk between Kim and his boss Kang, in front of the bar called "la dolce vita". Like almost all Korean films I have seen, A Bittersweet Life is shot beautifully. Something I really liked was that even the scenes in the dark and in the rain are filmed in a way that you can see all the characters and know what is going on. I have seen time and again (especially in Indian cinema) where night scenes pretty much mean staring at a dark screen just listening to the dialogue.

So, does A Bittersweet Life strengthen my faith in Korean Cinema like its predecessors? Yes! It might not be as strong a film as The Chaser, but nevertheless it is a piece of cinema that deserves a 4/5 star rating from me.


  1. Korean cinema is a very untapped source for many. There are so many strong films coming from over there, it almost puts Hollywood to shame!

    I haven't actually seen this one yet, but is already on the to watch list. Never thought I would get into these Korean movies before seeing any but I am know a big fan.

  2. My thoughts exactly Mark. I never actually thought I will end up with such a liking for Korean cinema, but am I glad to have been proven wrong.

  3. Very nice review and it's a movie that was very powerful. Of course it also had some amazing action sequences.

  4. True. I think Korean cinema has mastered this ganster genre just like Hong Kong cinema did a while back. The difference I find is that Korean cinema is a lot bolder than most cinemas from around the world.