If you’ve ever heard about Hwangseo serial killings, this movie will end up just like real life events, and it’s definitely not the end that you want. Director Bong Joon-ho borrowed the image of the case to express the harsh reality of Korean society at the time. It was a period of turmoil both economically and politically. And a movie that dared to mention politics at the time was rare and very brave.
Every time you laugh at Park’s detective, it’s like you’re laughing at the Korean police at that time. A small part of the work is negligence, lacking the minimum as a professional ethics. The police are now focused on dealing with a chaotic society with violent means. So when the sheriff asked for aid to catch the perpetrator, they just got a shake of their head because they all went to suppress a protest. And rural detectives are forced to cope with the case, which in the first place is beyond their means.
Despite numerous efforts, the case is still in a deadlock. A number of victims were found, the latter was more horrendous than the previous one, but all that the police had heard was rumors and unrelated. Later they found out that the killer was always on the rainy night, and the local radio station played the Sad Letter. They found a technician named Park Hyun-kyu who sent a request to the radio station saying “Please play the song on rainy days.”
But by this time everything has gone so far, the tragedy has haunted the detective and changed their person, in one way or another. Attempts to solve the case are concentrated on Park Hyun-kyu. Police sent samples of semen collected from the perpetrator and his hair to the United States to compare DNA because those technologies were too alien to them at the time. Detective Seo watched him step by step, but on a heavy, rainy night, the Sad Letter song echoed on the radio, and he disappeared into the darkness. In the morning, a girl was found raped and murdered brutally last night.
Detective Seo frantically traced the worker, now he almost loses himself. He withdrew his gun and pointed it at him. At that moment Detective Park brought the results sent from the United States. Seo opened it and for the first time in his life he exclaimed, “I do not believe in these documents.” He pointed his gun at Park Hyun-kyu and pulled the trigger. But Detective Park stopped him. Seo is no longer the same and Park is the same. He understood what was wrong and accepted the sight of the suspect disappearing into the tunnel.
17 years later, Park is no longer a cop and has a warm family. He returned to the old field, where the first corpse was found. A girl approached and asked why he was staring at it. And it’s weird that just recently there was a person looking at him like you. She asked why the man answered that he had done a job here long ago and returned to reminisce about it. Park asked if she could see his face. She said that she looked “very normal”.
A movie only questions without answers, only the knob without the knob. But it will haunt us in such a way that the case has haunted those who have been involved in solving the problem. All of them are portrayed as true but grim, justice does not always win, efforts are not always rewarded. The nature of each person is a mystery, even we ourselves do not understand at all. To discover that could be an unending, overcast journey.
What is human nature? Is it indeterminate or invariant? Do we understand our nature? When experiencing events beyond tolerance, do we change? Find your own answer because everyone has their own itinerary. And by the end of that path, we may be able to recognize our true self. But will we accept that?
The film ends where it all began, with a dazed look from Park looking directly at the viewer. That gaze is like saying that out there, the bad guys are still free, silently lurking somewhere between us. And now he is remembering what he has done.