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March 12, 2014


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Kim Sung-soo - 2013
CJ Entertainment Region 1 DVD

There are two scenes of humans being incinerated. It is the second such scene that is more disturbing. It is a stadium sized pit with about one-thousand bodies of victims of a deadly virus. Bodies a dumped in by a giant crane. If the image is reminiscent of documentary footage following the discovery of Nazi concentration camps, it is not coincidental. Director Kim Sung-soo mentions, in the "Making of" supplement that he had the camp where the flu victims are interned to look like Auschwitz.

While the events in Flu get increasingly grim as the film progresses, Kim does start off on a light-hearted note. Beginning with a car improbably stuck in an underground construction site, the two main characters, a rescue worker and a doctor, are introduced in the manner of a screwball comedy. The doctor is temporarily more concerned with protecting her modesty than simply getting getting out of her perilous situation. The two are reconnected with the rescue worker meets up with the doctor's pre-school age daughter, as well as the illegal immigrant who has entered Korea from Hong Kong with the mysterious virus.

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It is significant that the film takes place in Bundang, a city near Seoul. A specially designed space, with an affluent population living in high rises, the real Bundang may represent the best in a highly planned community. Having a virus of unknown origin and no known cure creates havoc and anarchy in a place where all elements of life are suppose to be under control. As the story progresses, the concerns grow from trying to isolate a few infected people to isolating a city, to a point where the entire country of South Korea is threatened.

Playing against and with the drama of the main characters are the conflicts between medical doctors, politicians, and the intervention of military forces. Kim presents a worse case scenario that takes place in the near future, this April as a matter of fact.

Five year old (at the time of filming) Park Min-ha steals the show as the doctor's daughter. It is her banter with Jang Hyuk as the rescue worker, and Park Soo-ae as the doctor, as well as the banter between the two adults that provide the initial emotional hook.

After a decade of serving as producer, as well as having several proposed projects fail to get financing, Kim discussed in an interview why he made Flu: "At the time when I was contemplating whether I should shoot his film or not, in Korea there was Foot and Mouth disease that was spread through pigs and was expanding so the government decided, to prevent an outbreak to bury alive 3 million pigs in the year 2011 in a way that was completely unimaginable and terrible. Somebody from the animal rights sector filmed it and put it online which then went viral and I remember thinking how could this happen and how could we do this?

The reason why we could do something so unimaginable is that we want to continue eating pork so there’s a real sense of selfishness in that and although it feels really unconceivable, if we could do this to pigs, I wondered if we could give this cruel treatment to humans by other humans as well and I thought why not, that it was equally applicable. When I read the script this had much more resonance, once these events had occurred, there were these emotions present within the film."

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Posted by peter at March 12, 2014 07:50 AM