Decision To Leave

Reviewed by Stephen Pye

Park Chan Wook is Korea's most eminent film director. 'Decision To Leave' his latest film is, on the most elemental level, a classic detective story, driven by the detective's (Hae-joon) desire for the suspect (Seo-Rae). Nothing though is ever straightforward in this film. Park plays with time and space, blurs the past with the present and inventively employs flashbacks and fantasy sequences that deepen the mystery, disrupt the flow and draw attention to the filmmaking itself. The effect is both dazzling and enjoyably dizzying.

The detective is also an insomniac and his dreams sometimes spill over into the daytime. Park is deeply interested in the problems which accompany sleep deprivation; and this informs many of the
film's sequences. Park's most obvious touchstone is "Vertigo", Hitchcock's sublime 1958 l'amour fou about a detective who falls in love with a woman he thinks he's lost only to find and lose her again.There are many nods to Hitchcock throughout the film, not least an amazing mountaineering episode.

However though informed by Hitchcock, almost reverentially so, 'Decision To Leave' is pure Park Chan-Wook. He says that the film could not have been made had he not first secured the services of Park Hay-il (Hae-joon) and Tang-wei (Seo-Rae). It is their utterly brilliant performances which imbue the film with its deep, then deeper wells of feeling. Tang-wei, a 43-year-old Chinese actor had to learn Korean in order to star in the film; the very fact that she speaks a grammatically very high form of the language means she is, deliberately, not always understood, allowing Park to employ mobile translating devices. This is for the director a kind of metaphor for our own inability to define and articulate what it means to be “in love” with someone.

From the very first destabilising moments of the movie, Park dazzles you with the beauty of his images and the intoxicating bravura of his unfettered imagination. And then, just when you think you have found your bearings, he unmoors you yet again, blowing minds and shattering hearts.

It is a deliberately puzzling film, drenched in colour, sometimes almost consciously obfuscatory, but always drawing you back to the central theme, obsession, and its often devastating but unintended