Film: Mother (Madeo / 마더)
Director: Bong Joon-Ho
Venue: The Korean Cultural Centre / The ICA
Running time: 129 minutes.
Selected for Cannes, Toronto and New York film festivals.
Mother… Second time around… KCC… July 2011.
Bizarrely enough, even though I have recently reminded myself of the wonderful opening of this movie (and even right up to a day or two prior to this screening), the moment surprised me a second time. I use the term ‘surprised’ loosely – as soon as that scene started I was reminded of it’s brilliance.
In a shot – vaguely related to that opening scene – we are taken to a woman slicing what I believe to be the exact natural material featured in that first moment. [Hence ‘vaguely’ related].
We are soon introduced to the woman’s offspring & not long after this a scene consisting of just a couple of shots, which is both a tad distasteful whilst strangely beautiful. The feeding of the offspring with some liquid is almost juxtaposed with the motion of liquid leaving his body, as if it’s going straight through him.
In fact, the phrase “going straight through him” could relate to the intelligence of this young soul. Yes, he’s not the brainiest kid on the block and indeed the clever gene has skipped a generation – things either pass obliviously through him or right above his head. We sympathise with, whilst laugh at him. This tells as that this movie – whatever dramatic genre it is – is to be splattered with, (no, not blood… but…) black comedic moments.
Luckily, his mother dotes over him immensely and is forever looking out for him. Never more so than in a scene upon us next… It’s one in which her son is mysteriously taken away in a car – only for this car to somewhat collide with another.
There is a screech, but we can’t quite make out if is one of the sound of tyres or a woman’s scream. What has happened? Has it something to do with what we also witness?
What do we also witness? Well, for one, we know that someone has died, and from the evidence it doesn’t look like suicide. In fact, the way that this death has been presented to the audience is by use of an image which is both shocking, haunting and daunting. Perhaps never has so much hair been used to show a life taken from us, especially in one long and still shot.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise who the suspect is, and if the police guys don’t tell us by their words other factors do.
Of course, as with most murders there is always someone who believes it either to not be a killing or that somebody else is the culprit. Cue a rather comical appeal, whilst the other town folk & detectives seem to be performing some kind of reconstruction, again with snigger-some results. Look out for a ‘dummy’ (and I don’t mean the suspect!)
With any appeal comes a lawyer and is this situation any different? Well, there is indeed a well-groomed, female-loving character resembling a person of the law profession. Not only a well-characterized individual in such a bit-part but also some lovely camera-work involving this person and food. Such a lawyer is seen in a good later scene – that scene is a tad surreal, involving drinking, pretty girls & errr a karaoke microphone? Hmmm.
There are of course a similarity or two with other films (albeit not many), including the also Korean movie, Poetry. As you’ll see in my review for Poetry [here: https://miniminimovie.com/2011/07/25/poetry-or-grand-madeo/] some of the story – but definitely not the style – is vaguely familiar. Not only that comparison, there is a funeral or wake scene for the departed [almost obligatory of late, in Asian films?], which the main character doth fleetingly visit, and needless to say is met with a less than warm welcome.
On the subject of comparisons, I believe parts of this film and the style of it have been labelled Hitchcockian… This is certainly true of much of the music score.
I’ve done well, so far of avoiding spoilers [its not easy, you know…] and I’ll continue to do so as I dwell a little on one of the main plot-lines of this picture. What’s that? Well, the aforementioned unfortunate death… the death of a girl. It is (of course) a tragic death, but it could also be said that this female had been living a tragic life. When moments are mentioned about the deceased’s life it fills you [well, moi at least] with emotion and sympathy.
Some things are just plain ‘bizarre’… You see, this being the second time of viewing “Madeo” [the first being way back as part of an UltraCulture event, at the ICA] the same highlights and moments remind me of what scenes to write about. After all this time, you’d think that my brain would be choosing alternative pieces of the film, but no… In fact, as I write these almost-bullet-points down, it’s almost déjà vu & I’m convinced I’ve written this review before. Strange.
The latter is again true in the brilliant scene where ‘Mother’ has pretty much taken the investigation into her own hands and is now at an individual’s home, unbeknown to that person. This scene is not only tense, it’s a tad amusing and at the same time realistic & dramatic. And… How do her goings-on go unnoticed? I’m unsure, but it really works.
This wouldn’t be a modern Far Eastern film without a cellphone or two. I guess that such a mobile phone, in this picture anyway can take on it’s own personality and therefore become a major cog & character in the story […’cog’ being the operative word, as we half-see the components inside a cellphone]. There is a lovely moment regarding the phone and a some-would-say-geeky girl.
One of the better – and darker – interrogation scenes put to film is also included in this great movie, if only almost fleeting.
We also have nosebleeds, blood and even ‘bad blood’ (literally, it would appear…).
Speaking of bad blood – and murder – there is a scene in the film when fire is placed in various areas of a building, almost puncturing the space and therefore it feeling like a larger version of acupuncture. This may well be intentional as the art of acupuncture features kind of heavily in certain parts of this motion prick-ture.
The picture also makes us feel like we don’t know if to laugh or cry. Perhaps never more so when the young girl is killed. Sounds bizarre? It is, I guess but it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Surely a sign of good film-making.
From milk-making to film promoting. If this were one of those straight-to-DVD American films – you know the ones – it could be given tagline, “Like Mother, Like Son’. You’ll have to see it to understand what I mean. If you still don’t know, enquire within and message me.
Well, that’s it… but lest we forget a superb scene with a bus load of ‘MOTHERS’! [Crudity intended… but hardly apt]
And… Not forgetting…:
Mini Mini Movie (i.e. Trailer)
“Mini Mother, Mini Madeo”: