December’s Film in Discussion: Mother
For December’s film, The Hunter College Film Blog has chosen Bong Joon-ho’s crime drama/thriller, Mother. Here is what a few of us have to say:
FredFMR: Mother is a captivating story about an overprotective mother (Kim Hye-ja) who must prove her mentally handicapped son, Do-Joon’s (Won Bin), innocence after he’s arrested for a young girl’s murder. Since the local police force doesn’t seem too bothered in investigating the case further, the mother must take the law into her own hands.
Fmtransmission: I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘what can this frail little women actually accomplish?’. But it kept my eyes plugged to the screen, and the film is definitely a cinematic treat.
FredFMR: Usually, I’m able to predict the roads the main characters take during crime dramas like Mother. But I was blown away by the twists and turns this story took me on. Just like the Mother character, I had no idea where the film was going to go. In fact, I thought it would end up to be very predictable. But it’s far from it, really surprising me by the facts behind the young girl’s murder, keeping me interested from beginning to end.
Fmtransmission: What I found really interesting was director Bong’s depiction of family in Mother. Kim Hye-ja’s role shows that unconditional love for her son. The film is a journey of the great lengths of what a mother would do for her child. For most this is a myth, but Bong Joon-ho really captures the essence of the bond between mother and child. There is something purely animalistic about the portrayal of this bond that a mother shares.
FredFMR: Bong Joon-Ho directs a beautiful film, giving us many layers of a simple town disturbed by a murder. The editing and cinematography are impeccable. And the use of flashbacks, which can hurt a film, actually enhance the film, as each flashback reveals more and more about what really happened on that one murderous night.
The D-Man: Thematically, the film is about the recalling and erasing of memories, but director Bong Joon-ho utilizes different motifs seamlessly into the narrative not only to reinforce this theme but also to add other sub-layers of meaning. In the most recent issue of Film Quarterly (Winter 2010, Volume 64 Number 2), there is an article on Mother that makes a very interesting analysis about displaced violence and the uselessness of the paternal authority. Quoting the articles’ authors, Natasa Durovicova and Garrett Stewart, they say that the “paternal authority is worthless even when not downright abusive, with absent fathers replaced by belligerent law enforcers, themselves stand-ins for a repressive state […]”
Fmtransmission: I wonder if there was also a subliminal commentary on the absent paternal figure in the family household. With a family lacking the alpha male, does Bong Joon-ho suggest that one should expect an unfortunate outcome? In this case, a mentally challenged child, or an emotionally unstable mother. And what burden does that leave on the mother in an incomplete household?
The D-Man: The film is also incredibly well acted, all the actors really making their characters memorable.
FredFMR: Kim Hye-ja is a tour-de-force as the Mother, crafting a very believable portrayal of a woman who, while too overprotective for her and her son’s own good, will do anything for her child, even if it ends up getting her in trouble. She hits all the emotional cues well, from the grief of her son getting arrested, to the shocking realization that her son remembers certain events in his childhood, to the guilt and sadness she feels when the truth actually comes out. Kim gives us a brilliant performance as a tough, smart, and sensitive woman.
Fmtransmission: Her performance is brilliant. There is something so entrancing about an actor that can take on a role and bring the audience with them. You really watch her role as Mother unravel on screen.
The D-Man: Watching Mother I couldn’t help but notice similarities with another Korean film, Oldboy, for its constant reversals, engaging sleuth plot structure, its use of the image system, and disturbing sexuality. Being that Oldboy is such a staple of contemporary Korean cinema (in the U.S. at least), I feel ignorant that I can’t compare it with other films but Mother does follow a similar path that Oldboy has paved. However, you cannot undermine the uniqueness that Mother also brings to cinema. That opening scene of the mother mysteriously dancing in the middle of a field that is later revealed to be a form of self-numbing escape is beyond brilliant.
FredFMR: It actually reminded me of several Alfred Hitchcock films, where you were never sure what the real facts were until the very end. If that’s not a compliment, I don’t know what is. It’s hard to really get into detail without spoiling what happens, but it’s definitely worth the ride and was told powerfully well.
The D-Man: It’s truly a film that shouldn’t be missed so make sure you go see it if you haven’t already. As for myself, I’ll be checking out his previous murder mystery, Memories of Murder!
Fmtransmission: Mother is a page turner, or in the world of cinema, a frame roller.