Review Summary: Laugh and the whole world will laugh with you. Cry and you will cry alone.
It has been said that 70 to 80% of movies produced throughout the globe, is relevant to the subject of revenge. Well, this is no big surprise really. From the dawn of time, man had this primordial tendency to bring all kinds of evil to his fellow humans, so the anticipated reaction for the victims was to get back at them, while being equally or more inventive in the very planning and realization of their reprisal. This abundance in forms that evil and revenge can acquire has motivated contemporary script writers to write inventively about revenge, adding multiple twists in the initial (simple) pattern. Long before the invention of cinema as we know it, though, the concept of revenge was already present in the work of ancient Greek poets like Homer and Sophocles. The clue, however, in ancient Greek theater plays was that the element of revenge was aptly combined with the inherent weakness of man to escape the destiny that the gods had given him (Το πεπρωμενο φυγείν αδύνατον). While the majority of contemporary Hollywood and non-Hollywood films focus solely on the concept of revenge per se, there are certain films which fully encompass the point of view of the ancient Greek poets and theatrical directors (sic). A great example in the latter direction is the so-called trilogy of revenge produced by the Korean director Chan-wook Park. Out of the three films – Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
(2003) and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
(2005) - Oldboy
is the one that came closer to the characteristics for which ancient Greek tragedies were critically acclaimed worldwide. The film score that was written for the film plays a huge part in that respect.
The plot of the film is as follows: Oh Dae-Su, a man whose life is described by recklessness, is being kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years. Somehow, he escapes his prison only to find that he must meet his captor in 5 days and deal with him about their sins from the past…
The music of the film is divine. Director Chan-wook Park and composer Yeong-wook Jo use a full orchestra and discrete electronica (loosely coupled to the former), to give a precise sonic analogue of the emotional and physical transformations of all film characters. As the main character of the film, Oh Dae-Su, struggles in vain to get out of each dead-end both in his mind and body, the strings weave bleak melodies that seem to follow a downward spiral staircase, so as to eventually be lost to the darkness, in which a worn mind resides after 15 years of mental and physical captivity. During the hyper-violent scenes of the film, the music is either strings endorsing romantic (!!) waltzes or low-beat psychedelic electronica, providing a superb controversy. As all characters – captor, pawns and the protagonist – pretentiously think they have control over their mind, their lives and the lives of others, strings, synths and piano stand behind the interrogator’s light, gradually revealing to all that their proclaimed control over situations and people is in multiples of fading grey. Some string themes are repeated throughout the film/soundtrack, only to remind that what was thought as true is false and that the escape for all parties is not in bright colors. As the inevitable end is closing in, the tension in the arrangements and the nature of the melodies of the strings increases proportionally and eventually wears off to calm waltzes. Catharsis has been served.
It can be said in all honesty that the film wouldn’t have been the great artistic and commercial success it was back in 2005, if it wasn’t for its music score. However, the Oldboy
soundtrack can stand on its own easily as a separate work of classical music. It has a hugely uncharted potential in becoming the soundtrack of choice for an individual who wishes to delve into its thoughts and re-evaluate people, situations, ideas and life in general. The maze formed in this record will put to the test everyone who will tread its entrance. Are you ready"