What is it about a crime that intrigues us? Is it the precision of the criminal or the efficiency of astute investigators? Perhaps the answer lies with inquisitive individuals. However, the gruesome reality unnerves us as victims or simply viewers. Bong Joon-Ho puts up a mystery but doesn’t solve it. Memories of Murder, true to its name, documents fragments of experiences. Real-life incidents in Hwaseong between 1986 and 1991 were the basis for this 2003 film’s plot. This Korean crime thriller keeps the audience at the edge of their seat.
Recollection of Murders (Memories of Murder)
The film opens with retrieving the mutilated body of a young girl brutally raped and murdered. Park doo-man a local detective comes across another body in the outskirts of the town. Again, it was a girl with similar injuries. Along with his subordinate Park sets out to investigate. Park believes he has shamanic power to identify the criminal by eye contact. Seo Tae-Yoon, a young university read detective from Seol volunteers to join them in their inquiry. Tae-Yoon rightly identifies the criminal as a serial killer and sets out to retrieve the third corpse.
The Murder Plot: Memories of Murder that drive you insane
The schoolgirls tell the cops in action about a rumor doing the rounds. It concerned a certain insane lady who was heard wailing on the mountain top. Tae-Yoon impatiently waits outside while his colleague speaks with the rumored insane lady. She vividly describes her experience to the lady officer. However, she asserts that she remains alive because she didn’t see the face of the criminal.
While Tae-Yoon is drawing links to identify the pervert, his colleague Doo-man uses violence to frame every other suspect. In one such trial a retarded fellow, Kwang ho becomes the prime suspect. Tae-Yoon dismisses the poor chap but his lucid description of the event raises concerns. Further inquiry pinned down Kwang Ho as the prime witness. As fate would have it, the prime witness dies in a tragic accident.
Following The Footsteps of the Murderer
Devoid of any witnesses the only way to get hold of the murderer is trapping him in his own plot. The criminal captured young women, tied them with their stockings, strangled them with their brassiere; covered their faces with their panties as he fulfilled his perverted desires. The women would usually be walking alone through the fields or taking desolate paths. Rains and music cater not only to the aesthetics of common folk but also the debauchery of our unidentified antagonist. The cops set up traps on rainy nights but failed to catch the criminal. The radio would play a song on every rainy night when the crime would take place. The person sending the postcards was traced and held captive. The forensic report however wasn’t in favor of the cops. Park Doo-man‘s shamanic eye contact failed to identify the killer.
The last case filmed was of a young schoolgirl violated in a similar manner. Science, shamans, fortune tellers could not draw up the face of the terror. Memories of Murder doesn’t account for the statistics of actual deaths. In the end, it’s up to the audience’s imagination as to what the real numbers are.
Conclusion- Does it ever end?
Park has changed his profession in 2003. He revisits the first murder spot when a little girl informs him that another man had visited the place. He was reminiscing some of his deeds. The film ends with Park looking at the audience through the camera with his shamanic eye contact. It’s like a warning not to the criminal but to the victims. The unidentified killer is among us. Memories of Murder is an unfinished tale. Incomplete because the crime persists, although the criminals keep changing. Walking alone on wet deserted roads has its own perils. Additionally, the unrecognized monsters lurking in nooks and corners threaten our lives. The movie is disturbingly true. It is a direct commentary of the social reality. The eye contact at the end is also, perhaps a warning to the inner demons. Will we ever get rid of the crimes? The answer to this is yet unknown. The only option we have is to look through and brace ourselves.