Eye For Film >> Movies >> A Bloody Aria (2006) Film Review
A Bloody Aria
Reviewed by: Anton Bitel
Married music professor Yeong-sun (Lee Byeong-jun) is a respectable, cultured establishment figure who drives a shiny new Merc – but he is also a bully. On his way back to Seoul, he tries first to browbeat his way out of a fine from a rural cop (Han Suk-kyu), and then to force himself upon his much younger passenger, aspiring opera singer In-jeong (Cha Ye-ryeon) – but when the two travellers run into a local gang of 'retards', outcasts and losers tormenting a high school pupil (Kim Shi-goo), Yeong-sun will be taught a lesson in the infectious nature of male power structures, where everyone ends up getting a taste of someone else's medicine.
It may feature unhinged behaviour, escalating tension and the odd paroxysm of bludgeoning violence, it may brim with studied allusions to films like Takashi Miike's Audition (1999), John Boorman's Deliverance (1972) and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), but A Bloody Aria is no conventional horror (of the 'backwoods survivalist' variety). Rather, all its menace and irrational brutality serve to dramatise the insane cyclicality of masculine hierarchies. Like Miike's Ichi the Killer (2001), Yasuo Inoue's Neighbour No. 13 (2005) and Park Chan-wook's Oldboy (2003) before it, Won Shin-yeon's film shows that when it comes to bullying, you can give only as good as you get.
A Bloody Aria continues a trend in recent Korean cinema of blending and twisting genre into something that, while still familiar, repeatedly wrongfoots the viewer. Sure the gang members are thuggish rednecks, but their dumb-assed viciousness is both tempered by unusually rich characterisation and explained by well-integrated backstories, so that they can ultimately be accepted as victims as much as predators (in a film where the weakest are always the strongest). And although the degeneration of events from bad to worse is made unbearably tense, Won also peppers his film with black humour, without ever abandoning his allegiance to social commentary.
A Bloody Aria is the best kind of unpleasant, and grimly funny to boot, as Won Shin-yeon's mean-spiritedness hits all the high notes.Reviewed on: 29 Sep 2008