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April 10, 2014

Confession of Murder

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Naega Salinbeomida;
Jung Byung-gil - 2012
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

The best reason to see the South Korean Confession of Murder is for the action set pieces. This is the kind of stuff that reveals the conventionality and lack of imagination in big budget Hollywood. The first chase scene has the brother of one of the victims in pursuit of the confessed killer. When the two are not leaping around from one fast moving car to another, they are having a fist fight on one of the moving vehicles. The action is cut between point of view shots with the camera at bumper level. There is a lot of fact cutting, but Bung is able to organize the shots so that the sense of direction remains coherent. There is a second high speed chase with the dogged detective in a high speed chase driving one very large truck, following a man on a motorcycle. The dynamics of scale are immediately set up here, along with the constricted space of part of the chase filmed in a tunnel. Many of the scenes throughout the film take place in very restricted or enclosed spaces, but Bung amps up his chases with cars and trucks that spin sideways and upside down, and lots of breaking glass.

As a critique of celebrity, Confession of Murder takes a few pot shots at a familiar target. Shortly after the statute of limitations has expired, a book is published, written by a confessed serial killer. The book is a best seller, with the killer earning millions of dollars. There is still one death that the killer may have been responsible for, but he's not admitting to more than what's been published. Detective Choi, who sports a scar on his mouth from when he almost caught the killer, finds himself conflicted in still wanting to bring the man to justice, yet at the same time finding himself protecting the killer from relatives of the known victims. The killer, Lee, with his boy band good looks, enjoys his time appearing on television, and taking the admiration of his young female fans. In spite of the evidence, Choi is not totally convinced that Lee is the real killer.

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There are some scenes with the producers of a reality show, setting up a meeting with Choi and Lee. The producer is concerned that Choi might shoot Lee on live television. The station owner sees that possibility as an "exclusive". Several characters debate the use of celebrity and mass media manipulated for personal advantage. Whether Lee is the actual serial killer, and if so, is truly remorseful, are almost beside the point.

Where writer-director Jung excels is in setting up a sense of almost constant claustrophobia, of the action taking place in enclosed spaces. The first scene takes place on a dark, rainy night. This is one of those few times when use of a shaky-cam, with the camera lens smeary with rain drops, is used to good effect. The killer is introduced wearing a storm bucket hat, his face partially covered by a surgical mask. The is very little visibility, and the the surrounding darkness seems more like walls rather than an infinite space. The crowds who have come to see Lee, and the shots of multiple television screens add to the oppressive atmosphere. Jung also films a fight inside an elevator, alternating shots from the observational camera with some point of view shots, as well as overhead shots showing a little room there is for the two foes to maneuver.

It should be noted that Confession of Murder was inspired by a real life, unsolved case, of the murder of ten women in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. Until 2007, there was a fifteen year statute of limitations for murder, later changed to twenty-five years. Currently, the South Korean government is considering a bill to abolish any statute of limitations for first degree mursder, making release quite timely.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 10, 2014 07:03 AM