Posted tagged ‘byakuyakou’

Film Review: White Night / Baekyahaeng (2009)

July 25, 2010

White Queen, Black Pawn: A Korean Chiaroscuro

by Ender’s Girl

[Note: this film review also serves as a comparison post for White Night and the 2006 J-drama Byakuyakou. For a primer, click to read my Byakuyakou review]

The Cast:
Han Suk-kyu, Son Ye-jin, Go Soo, Lee Min-jeong, Park Seong-woong, Cha Hwa-yeon, Jeong Jin, Bang Joong-hyeon

Directed by Park Shin-woo; Adapted screenplay by Park Shin-woo and Park Yeon-seon / Cinema Service & Pollux Pictures, 2009

In a Nutshell:
The mysterious death of a convicted blackmailer — officially ruled as a suicide — inadvertently disentangles a snarl of perfect, untraceable crimes that have lain buried for fourteen years, and that may or may not have been perpetrated by… a 14-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl.

(SpoilLert: Very spoilery for those who haven’t read the original novel or seen the 2006 J-drama adaptation.)

[Recommended companion track: “Light and Shade” by Fra Lippo Lippi… no just kidding, lol]

Chiaroscuro: An effect of contrasted light and shadow created by light falling unevenly or from a particular direction on something. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Who knew that the main theme from “Swan Lake” could serve as the PERFECT backdrop for both… murder and sex? The opening sequence of Park Shin-woo’s 2009 film White Night is a stark juxtaposition of these two disparate events: a beautiful woman makes love to her man on the immaculate white sheets of her bed, while a man in black garrotes a seedy-looking ex-con in his seedier-looking digs.

As Tchaikovsky’s iconic score sweeps into its emotional crescendo, you realize with disconcerting clarity that murder and sex actually have much more in common than you’d like to think. Both are extremely physical acts involving the use brute force with each jerk, twist and thrust; both are also highly intimate acts wherein one invades the personal space of the other, and bits of soul are exchanged in the process. Little or no dialogue gets said, but the grunts and pants of exertion are heard as the participants engage in the single-minded consummation of The Act. Everything else is obliterated until climax is achieved; and whether it comes as death or orgasm, the physical manifestations are indistinguishable: the paroxysmal stiffening of the body, the voiding of body fluids, even the sacrificial shedding of blood. So is the aftermath the same: the slackening of the body muscles and the emptying of the mind as inactivity and quiet settle over the persons involved.

If anything can be inferred from this opening sequence, it is that something so life-extinguishing as a killing, and something so life-affirming as the act of lovemaking, are but two sides of the same coin, two opposites aligned in perpetual syzygy. This duality is more than a stylistic one; more importantly it is a thematic one, for within all of us is that inbuilt mechanism that enables us to swing from one antipode to the other through the choices that we make: Life or death… Love or hate… Vice or virtue, purity or depravity… Black or white, light or darkness, sun or shadow. And it is this “fearful symmetry” of the human condition that the film White Night unsparingly takes us through, zeroing in on two individuals who turn into the victims and the transgressors in their own tragic tale. This is their story.

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!


Drama Review: Byakuyakou / Journey Under a Midnight Sun (TBS, 2006)

November 30, 2009

Road to Perdition

by Ender’s Girl


The Cast:
Yamada Takayuki, Ayase Haruka, Takeda Tetsuya, Watabe Atsuro, Yo Kimiko, Yachigusa Kaoru, Kashiwabara Takashi, Izumisawa Yuki, Fukuda Mayuko

In a Nutshell:
Two children commit the unthinkable but manage to deceive the police — except for one homicide detective who stays doggedly on their trail. But old sins cast long shadows, and their original crime inevitably leads to the next, and to the next, and to the next…

(SpoilLert: Spoilers right off the bat! Tread carefully.)

[Recommended companion tracks: “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden; “Eclipse” by Pink Floyd]


“Long is the way
And hard, that out of Hell leads up to light;”

– John Milton, “Paradise Lost”


These two kids, how they break my heart.

What makes a murderer? Does it really boil down to personal choice? Or is it when circumstances beyond one’s control present both the means and the opportunity to make that choice in the first place? And when a person takes the life of another, what does it do to them? What if this person were just a child?

When a grownup commits murder, it seems almost ordinary by society’s standards, and perhaps the more sensational ones (like crimes of passion) will merit a passing mention in the local news. But when a child commits murder, why do we feel so shaken right down to our very core? We often overlook the fact that children are capable of doing a lot more than we give them credit for. They can fight, they can hurt each other, they can defend themselves or those whom they love, they can think and feel and react, they can lie and steal — they can make moral choices. It is modern society that blithely looks away from this reality, choosing instead to view children with rosy-tinted innocence while denying them any smidgen of personal accountability.


When an eleven-year-old boy sticks a knife in his own father’s chest, when a girl of the same age plots to gas her own mother to death — what does this do to them? And what does this do to us, as viewers? How do these young killers live with the implications of their crimes? What do they do to survive, and how do they deal with potential obstacles to their freedom?

Byakuyakou is the journey that these two children, Kirihara Ryouji and Nishimoto Yukiho, undertake together as they carry their burden of guilt and fear and shame through uncharted territory, hacking out their own road in this wilderness while leaving a trail of blood and lies and tears. For the story of Byakuyakou is also a journey deep into the human heart, this no man’s land of hidden valleys and dark, endless tunnels. There are more secrets to bury, more crimes to cover up before the statute of limitations expires — and beyond this, freedom.

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!