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LKFF Preview of I SAW THE DEVIL + Q&A with director Kim Jee-woon

I SAW THE DEVIL is the last delivery from cult Korean director, Kim Jee-woon exploring the theme of vengeance; young secret agent goes on a hunt and torture rampage of the killer of his fiancée. 
I SAW THE DEVIL does not shy away from vicious violence, both displayed by the killer and the agent, with some graphic scenes that resulted in the film being panned by critics in Korean and also banned. Twice. The government being fearful for the mental health of Korean citizens. However, when the film screened at the Toronto Film Festival, it got a standing ovation and rave reviews. 
It is an interesting study of personal vengeance, exploring the process of vengeance as one of transformation for the avenger (for the worse) as the agent become increasingly more and more violent, and more like the killer that he is torturing. Jee-woon, in the Q&A, confirmed that the purpose of the film is one of exploring the act of vengeance as something that does not yield the pleasurable results that are portrayed in other vengeance films - there is no relief at the end, no rejoicing at the liquidation of the killer. He meant for the audience to feel as empty as the agent character because vengeance is entertaining to watch, but the cat-mouse race is one that bares human's emotional responses and ability to carry out extreme acts of violence. 
He also chose to shoot the film in a realistic style (almost like a twisted Coen Brothers film) so that the audience would be aware of colluding with the violence and the transformation on screen.  
As for the title, it was chosen due to its' ambiguity; the killer can be the devil, putting an end to several girls' lives, the agents' transformation into a sort of death-bringer for the killer and, even, the audience themselves.
Overall, so far hailed as Jee-woon's best work to date - definitely one to watch.   

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Tania Martins

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