"POWERFUL SECRETS are revealed through INTENSITY and EXTREMES of experience."—John Zorn
Been thinking about this for a while, and seeing I Saw The Devil last night pretty much brought it out. The Korean film offers a harrowing tale of an agent's hunt for a serial killer who brutally murdered his fiancee, which turns into an increasingly violent and disturbing battle of wills in which the agent becomes as much a monster as the man he's shadowing.
Films this disturbing, this openly flaunting of onscreen and societal taboos, are useful, if only for letting us know where, as individual audients, where our own boundaries lie. Had a serious disagreement over I Saw The Devil with my date last night; though she found the film too violent (this from someone who had no problem with either Maniac or Ms. 45) and felt that reducing the on-screen carnage wouldn't have dampened the impact, I felt that the extremity of the violence only heightened the human stakes of the story, and was underscored (and justified) by the film's ultimate moral message. This despite being as averse to the "torture porn" school of filmmaking as she.
How far can a film push the boundaries of onscreen activity? How far should it? How much can be justified by a narrative? When does a film or a filmmaker go too far? Who makes that call?
Big questions for any filmgoer. These questions are posed in (and by) a number of films on Jaman, from the perverse family dynamics of Ma Mère to the downright Sadean excesses of The Champagne Club.