After seeing Park Chan-wook’s third film Simpan, I asked myself “What am I to take from this?” I didn’t have an answer that satisfied me. Or more to the point: one that satisfied what I had just seen. So what can I point to or parse that will do the explaining for me? Well, the film is as dynamic a film as I’ve ever seen; what does a family do in the face of being let down by a communal promise, and to what lengths would or should they go to find security? What would one’s responsibility and/or duty be when confronted with an opportunity for security? When does one stand up regardless of consequence? Chan-wook asks all these questions and more during his 26-minute human drama in which a family is summoned to a morgue under the most horrible of circumstances. A couple is called upon to view and identify someone who has been determined to be a long since runaway child killed during a general state of societal unrest. As it happens, there isn’t foul play involved as far as one can tell, yet a media representative and his cameraman, who are presumably documenting the unrest, join the aforementioned couple and the mortician (played by veteran actor and R-Point player Gi Ju-bong) for the determination.
The general unrest outside the confines of the morgue soon finds its way inside as the nameless mortician becomes distressed that the dead woman may in fact be his own missing daughter; an official soon arrives to our new world in an attempt to clear the matter up, but sides are taken and tempers flare. I’ll refrain from detailing the remainder of the story, but suffice it to say, Chan-wook resolves the issue in stunning fashion; with a bizarre blow then a profound portrait of humanism.
In the end, Simpan (loosely, “Judgement” – quite possibly closer to “arbiter”) impressed upon me that this may have been born as a Chan-wook original play, made for stage, then adapted (obviously) because the movements are so precise, economy of motion so observed that most of the dialogue dissipated afterward. I recall thinking the same thing after seeing Park Chan-wook’s Three…Extremes segment “Cut”. An unusual thing to say, I know, then again I was one of the few who actually liked Cut.
Watch Simpan here.