Thirst

Thirst

Film review by: Witney Seibold

 

Park Chan-Wook begins his new vampire movie “Thirst” with an intense philosophical promise, and then allows it to peter out into a melodramatic grand guignol of twisted domesticity. Taken by themselves, the two separate halves are amazing. Together, the film is a little mismatched and disappointing.

 

Let me explain: “Thirst” deals with the moral, philosophical and theological implications of a Catholic priest becoming a vampire. How does one drink blood without harming anyone? If one volunteers their blood, is it still wrong to drink it? The priest in question, Hyong (Kang-ho Song) finds a perfect solution in feeding, briefly, off of the comatose patients in the hospital where he volunteers his services as a holy man. If he doesn’t feed, a horrible disease starts to break out all over his skin. Sunlight indeed does burn him.

 

Hyong did not become a vampire through any attack; he received a transfusion of tainted blood. Here is a good man, indeed a man of the cloth, who, through no fault or flaw of his own, became an unholy, parasitic creature of the night. He was only trying to do good. This seems to be a common theme of Park’s films: people who are visited with the most horrible of wrathful punishments through innocent attempts at virtue and normalcy. Your small attempts at any sort of action, unless enacted with the utmost Nietzschian passion, will be crushed by the iron fist of everyday human cruelty and unforeseeable circumstance. If you haven’t seen Park’s “Oldboy,” I encourage you to.

 

I digress. A bonus to our priest’s vampirism is that his libido seems to skyrocket, and he begins to attract the intense sexual attention of a childhood friend’s wife (Ok-vin Kim). If you are a vampire, and you already need blood to survive, would breaking a vow of chastity and sleeping with a married woman be permissible? How do the moral rules change if you are not human anymore? Would you turn the woman you have fallen in love with into a vampire as well? Would you both go to Hell? What if she really begged, and seemed elated at the prospect of being a being of sex and death? Can a vampire go to heaven?

 

The first two thirds of the film are harsh and unflinching and wicked and ask good questions. Sadly, the film does not continue down that path. Indeed, the film seems to tack on an entire extraneous act where the vampire and his new woman are living in horrible sin, and seems to forget all its own fascinating religious setup. Plus, we never learn where the tainted blood came from. Why did a cloistered medical monastery have vampire blood on hand anyway? We never learn.

 

“Thirst” is still a lot more fascinating, sexy (the second sex scene is one of the more intense in recent memory), and bloody than many recent vampire films. It asks mature and heady questions, even though it never bothers to follow through with them. It’s a good film, but the genre has a new high bar, thanks to “Let the Right One In.”  Park is capable of more, though, and I will continue to see his films.

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Published in: on November 19, 2009 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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