Bloody tale is uncomfortable viewingIn “A Bloody Aria,” the things we most admire turn out to be scathing mockeries, whether it’s an opera singer who turns out be a bad kisser (and a would-be rapist); a tranquil countryside scene usually associated with innocence and nostalgia in provincial novels turning into a bloody mess; or even a brand-new Mercedes that, when its tires hit a trifling puddle, won’t move an inch.
The film subverts the audience’s expectations in every way. Then, as the tension grows, violence hits.
In-jeong (Cha Ye-ryeon), a young soprano, accompanies Yeong-seon on a joyride on a countryside road, perhaps hoping he can help her land the role of the heroine in an upcoming opera, where Yeong-seon is part of the auditions jury. His plan, however, is something else. He tries to rape her when they arrive at a deserted lake.
In-jeong escapes and walks miles on mountain roads in her stillettoes and witnesses the beating of a young boy by village hoodlums. When she meets a young man on a scooter who appears harmless, he takes her back to the lake from which she had just escaped. Her nightmare continues.
The young man proposes a “bacon party” with the group of punks she saw in the mountain beating a young boy in a rice sack. Yeong-seon is there too and is harassed by the group into singing the national anthem.
The film focuses on cycles of violence and the way in which victims can turn into aggressors, and aggressors turn into victims.
Yeong-seon harassed In-jeong, but is powerless when faced by a group of young men who are stronger than him. Later the audience learns that the boy in the sack was the younger brother of a local cop who used to beat the kids in the village.
Somehow the film seems to justify its violent episodes as rightful punishment that the victims deserve, as the film’s Korean title, “Violence Motivators,” suggests.
For example, did In-jeong deserve to be harassed sexually because she dared to hope her acquaintance with an opera jury member could benefit her career? Could the punks be forgiven for their beating of the young boy because they had previously been beaten by his elder brother?
The film is uncomfortable to watch because it’s filled with moments in which your moral conscience constantly juggles whether to laugh or sigh at the characters’ motivations to violence.
You seem to sympathize with their victim mentality at one point while at the same time, the film’s tension and the way it leads to violence are so persistently sickening you are tempted to turn off the DVD player.
The director Won Sin-yeon, however, is skilled at capturing the landscape of violence without too much explanation, whether it’s a flying bird that falls pitifully from a clear sky to the ground with flapping wings but no reason shown for the plunge, or the bony legs of the helpless young boy who is forced to drop his pants in front of his tormentors.
The film is layered with derision and irony, as it exudes humor even when it shouldn’t.
by Park Soo-mee