Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005, Chan-wook Park)
Sympathy for Lady vengeance rounds off Chan-Wook Park's revenge trilogy and is the first to feature a woman's revenge story.Geum-ja has spent 13 years in prison for a crime she did not commit; the murder of a young boy. Although she is not completely innocent (she helped to kidnap Park-Won Mo) she did not deserve to spend 13 years of her life in prison and to lose her daughter who was not even 1 when she was adopted by an Australian family.
On her release from prison Geum-ja is out for revenge and to prove her own innocence and to kill the real murdere;r an English Teacher from the child's school, Mr Baek. Geum-ja does this with the help of those who she helped and befriended in some way whilst in prison such as the women who she gave a kidney too, her husband supplies her with the gun she will use on Mr Baek.
The use of costume and Make-up is extremely important in this film to show Geum-ja's evolution and empowerment. When we first meet Geum-ja she is the picture of iinnocence and the Korean press and society are infactuated with her due to her 'beautiful face' on which they do not believe that someone so beautiful could be guilty of such a crime. There is even a remark to the fashion trend of that year being polka dot dresses because she wore one. Geum-ja wears that same dress on the day of her release. As you can see from the photo she has flawless pale skin suggesting her youth and innocense as well as wearing mo make-up she also wears young and pretty dresses. This is a stark contrast to what she changes into by the end of the film. She wears three distinct colours in the film white (innocence), red (blood/revenge) and black death. She weras a black leather trench coat and heeled boots as well as her signifier of red eye shadow. This is such a defining feture that every character even Mr Baek comments on it. She uses the eye shadow to show she has changed and that she is out for revenge but also because she doesn't want to have a kind face anymore like people used to say she had.
There are lots of scenes within the film that show Geum-ja taking back control and becoming empowered however there are three key scenes and these are;
- The death of 'The witch': the witch is an instantly dislikabe character. She is in prison at the same time as Geum-ja for the murder of her husband and his lover who she then went on to eat. The first time we meet the witch she purposefully trips up a new inmate who she then threatens into doing sexual acts on her. The lesbian pool scene just highlights your dislike for 'the witch' as you can see the trauma it is causing the female prisoner. As the Witch is forcing the other prisoner to form sexual acts on her you can see Geum-ja in the background, at first it is not obvious what she is doing but then the Witch slips over and you see Geum-ja stand up with a bar of soap in her hands. Geum-ja uses her innocence to help those who need it in prison and in doing so recruits their friendship and help. Geum-ja is considered to be very innocent by everyone and this is how she gets away with murdering the Witch as she is known for her acts of kindness such as donating her kidney. The scene where the Witch finally dies is very good at making you feel disgusted by the Witch and by showing that Geum-ja is not as innocent as her fellow prisoners believe. Geum-ja has been very clever in her murder of the witch as she does it over a long period of time by putting bleach into the witch's food while Geum-ja feedsher in hospital. The close up of Geum-ja show's the two different sides of her as she has a very sweet smile but when the witch burps in her face you can see the dark side to Geum-ja. Her final line 'hurry up and die' reitterates that Geum-ja is not all sweetness and nice. However her killing the witch helps her in prison as it makes people more loyal to her as they are now slightly unsure of the 'sweet' Geum-ja.
- Her release from Prison; on her release from prison she is met by a Priest who helped her redeem herself whilst in prison and to keep her picture of innocence. This is when you see the real Geum-ja she uses people to get what she wants from them. Geum-ja's actions and appearance juxtapose one another as she looks the picture of innocence with her pale skin, the same polka dot dress she was wearing on her day of imprisonment and her lack of makeup. However when offered the chance to begin again and create a knew life free of sin she throws the offering to the ground and tells the Preacher to go screw himself. This implies Geum-ja has plans that are in no way innocent.She has empowered herself as she has taken back control of her life and her choices; to live a life of sins. She had to go to prison to become a sinner.
- The planning and Murder of Mr Baek; geum-ja has spent 13 years planning how she is going to torture and murder Mr Baek the man who kidnapped and killed the little boy and who threatened to murder her daughter. He is the reason she went to prison and why she lost her daughter. However when she has the chance to murder him up close and personal with a gun she changes her mind and instead allows the parents of his victims to torture and murder him. This is empowering for Geum-ja as she is getting revenge but also freeing herself of some guilt she has as she is letting them get their own revenge that they would not else have had. The interesting thing about this scene is that all the people who go in to torture Mr Beak are female such as the first couple where the husband is crying and begging his wife not to go in there but she does. This contradicts the stereotypical weak women and mother.