The word "masterpiece" is bandied about way too easily for films of only average artistic & entertainment value, so I try to save the word for proven classics. Yet now & then something new seems to be such an achievement that I cannot resist the term.
Save the Green Planet! (Jigureul jikyeora!, 2003) is a masterpiece of tragicomedy about a schizophrenic youth, Lee Byeong-Gu (Shin Ha-Gyun), who kidnaps people he has convinced himself are aliens, torturing them over a long period of time until they die, keeping records of each of his victims, some of whom he in the long run decides weren't aliens after all, but others he decides really were.
The combination of innocence, sweetness, & blithe cruelty in Byeong-Gu's personality makes for a uniquely marvelous character.
All the characters are in their own rights wonderful, traipsing along the edge of preposterousness but somehow always believable. Sooni (Hwang Jung-Min) is Byeong-Gu's chubby charming tightrope walking girlfriend, who believes in her beloved's delusions because she loves him & that's reason enough to support his worldview & activities. And she's the greatest heroine I've seen in any film for a great long while.
Detective Chu (Jae-yong Lee) is a strange outcast from the police department, once a famous detective. Inspector Kim (Ju-hyeon Lee) is the up-&-coming young cop who admires Chu's career without concerning himself that others think of his admiration is misplaced.
Kang Man-shik (Baek Yun-Shik) is a big businessman who falls within loony Byeong-Gu's radar. Assisted by Sooni, he takes Mr. Kang captive. For the next many days they torture him in sundry horrible ways. Kang is a bold, unshakable victim who wants not merely to escape, but to turn the tables on this obnoxious nutcase for ruining his life.
Kang never completely breaks down, remaining a rebellious dungeon captive. At one point he gets loose from the torture chair but cannot escape the dungeon. While alone he goes through his captor's diaries chronicling a pathetic life, & through the records he has kept of previous individuals he has kidnapped & slowly killed.
The documents of a tragic life move Kang to tears, but he's still primarily a man who does not like to lose a battle, who has never until now felt himself to belong anywhere but the very top, & wants revenge. Even after days of physical torture, it's the emotional game he refuses to lose, & he's now loaded up with information on what his captor believes & what he has experienced in life & what will get under his skin.
Horror, sf, & psychological strangeness blend into something totally original. Despite visual references to Misery, 2001: A Space Odyssey & other films, it's really like nothing that's come before. Save the Green Planet is one of the strangest damned movies ever made, effectively emotional, violently action-packed, extremely witty, with one of the best coda-endings of all time. Even if a viewer predicts the ending well in advance, to see it acted out just as expected it riotously funny.
The dvd extras include an interview with the director, who lives in a humble little room amidst highly personal precious things, & comes off enough like his schizophrenic hero that Save the Green Planet appears to present an exaggerated portrait of this quirky charming unpreposessing fellow.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl