Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Heojil kyolshim / Decision to Leave

Park Chan-Wook: 헤어질 결심 / Heojil kyolshim / Decision to Leave (KO 2022) starring Park Hae-il (detective Hae-joon) and Tang Wei (the murder suspect Seo-rae). Location: Geumjeongsan Mountain, Busan, South Korea. Do click on the image to enlarge it.

AA: In the film's promotion information Decision to Leave is characterized as a detective story turning into romance, and I can understand the usefulness of these words as a handle.

But I find this film a metaphysical quest. The female protagonist Seo-rae is elusive, but the film itself is elusive, too. We soon realize that we are following a narrative in which perception is unreliable. In the middle of a take the conditional mood may appear: a doubled mood of the same situation.

Decision to Leave seems to take place in the detective's mind, not in the objective world. Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) is an obsessive detective suffering from insomnia. The strange disruptions and dislocations in the flow seem tell-tale signs of profound exhaustion.

For me, Decision to Leave is a film about the short attention span typical of the internet age, the lack of concentration in the mobile age, the scope of awareness getting increasingly reduced to the instant.

Decision to Leave belongs to the films inspired by Vertigo, but not in a superficial or obvious way. Falling from heights, the presence of the death drive, the centrality of a woman who is not who she seems, and the power of the sea are among the affinities. There are also set-ups in the chase sequences that seem to have a Vertigo hommage aspect.

The female protagonist Seo-rae (Tang Wei) is complex and original, and yet so mysterious that she almost feels like a figment of the imagination. Or the detective's projection is so dominating that we fail to fully empathize with the Chinese refugee herself.

Park Chan-Wook's previous films belong to the most highly regarded of the last 23 years. They have also been prominent in brutality, but brutality in art is a double-edged weapon: effective at first but may date badly.

Might the title Decision to Leave be also about Park Chan-Wook's statement of a new direction in his cinema?

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