11 July 2012 | gothic_a666
The price of forgiveness
O-neul is a very Korean movie. From its very sober execution to the way it dissects moral issues: all are trademarks that have elevated this country's cinema to the high standard it holds.
Here we are presented with a young Christian woman who loses his fiancé in an accident and perhaps against all odds chooses to forgive the assaulter. She even goes to the extent of signing a petition to release him. When her church tasks her with making a documentary about people who also forgave those who killed their loved one she is joined by a teenage girl with a very violent family background.
The main plot is rather simple and that only served to heighten the emotional impact. Little by little we realize that peace can be nothing but apathy and that forgiving at any cost costs one more in the long run and causes more pain than anything else. Yet these are lessons won through much anguish and are not easily arrived at.
Whether to forgive or not is at the heart of the movie. It is a universal question that in this case is deeply woven with the Catholic faith. Is forgiveness is cheaply achieved through mere ritual then its value may be questionable. And who has the right to forgive other than those who suffered? If the young woman is the main character, the teenager balances her beautifully. Being brutally beaten by her father and overall abused by her entire family she still struggles to keep a positive outlook that breaks down into virulent spite as she voices pent-up resentment. Hers is a difficult role, pointing out hard truths, cheering up those in grief, suffering breakdowns that also result from a deadly disease: it is proof of her acting skills that she manages to portray a believable character.
Some interesting notions fuel the movie's topic: that illness results from not lashing out in anger, if one does not hurt others then one must end up hurting oneself; that people ultimately forgive to cease their pain at times at the expense of losing track of their own suffering with disastrous effects; that it is inhuman to possibly get rid of hate, the best one can do is push it to the background and go on living; that forgiveness can be a double edged sword, especially within the family, since there are no repercussions.
This last point ultimately leads to the young woman questioning her own actions as she learns that the boy responsible for her fiancé's death has since killed another boy. How much responsibility does she bear, if any? In the end there is no happy conclusion. The movie weaves in flashbacks flawlessly, the past intervenes into the main narrative without disturbing but illuminating: and the very last scene illustrates this beautifully.
With topnotch acting and solid cinematography, this is an underrated jewel that deserves more attention for the brave way it confronts its touchy subject matter. Coming from a country known for delivering so many revenge movies, this effort in the tricky mental and psychological underpinnings of forgiveness is very welcome as original and relevant.