October 19, 2014

The Pit and the Pendulum: Mainly, the Pits

Title aside, Sohn Young-sung's The Pit and the Pendulum isn't obviously indebted to Edgar Allan Poe, although it does share the 19th century's author's obsession with morbid matters and monomania. It also periodically refers to a pit (albeit an archaeological dig, largely abandoned). And as to pendulums, the only connection I could find was a metaphorical one. While the movie clocks in at a 95 minutes, I was constantly checking my watch and fighting to stay awake amid action that held all the excitement of a hypnotist's watch swinging to and fro.

These are the two main reasons I struggled (with supporting detail).

1. The central character (Kim Tae-hyeon), now dead, is, from the extensive evidence presented by the mourners, a cheater, a liar, a plagiarist, a coward, a whiner, a pedophile, a bully, a wimp, a jabberer, a nut-job, a drunk. You have a difficult time understanding why anyone was friends with him (since he's not charismatic) or why they've shown up at his funeral (unless it's for free booze and food and to see mutual acquaintances).

2. The narrative set-up is a funeral (and what follows) during which each of the deceased's former friends relates unflattering stories but unlike The Bad and The Beautiful, the stories don't create a complex portrait. They dismantle each other. The first tale -- about the discovery of a woman who barely escapes being buried alive -- is the best. Which is another way of saying each story is worse than the one that preceded it. And unlike Rashomon, the successive stories aren't about perspective. They're simply unrelated and contradictory. And unlike The Sixth Sense, the presence of a ghost (Park Byung-eun) who's there but not there doesn't come as a surprise. Except maybe to the ghost.

"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?" -Edgar Allan Poe

No comments:

Post a Comment