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Memories of Murder

1986 in a small town...for two detectives, everything was new. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Bong Joon-ho 
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Kim Sang-kyung, Roe-ha Kim  
An image from Memories of Murder

Though it was Parasite that made him a household name, with its ‘one inch barrier’-crossing Best Picture win, Bong Joon Ho had been making masterful crime films throughout the previous two decades. Before Snowpiercer and Mother, there was this: a 2003 procedural thriller with an edge of real darkness. And unlike Zodiac, another cult hit based on a real-life murder case, this one had a fascinating extratextual epilogue; DNA evidence finally identified the culprit in 2019.

In the late 1980s, as with the real case, bodies of murdered women begin to appear in a small South Korean town. It’s a grim case, and Bong talked at the time about his efforts to tread carefully out of respect to the victims’ relatives. Because of this, and the absence of a real murderer for inspiration, the film chooses instead to focus on the methods and struggles of the police departments. This begins as the bungling errors of small-town officers not used to the gravity of the situation, and morphs into drama as experienced detectives from Seoul are brought in to help. It’s dour and gripping, but the conviction in certain set-pieces show the vision of a director with promise.

Max King

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Screenings of this film:

2020/2021 Autumn Term (digital)
2022/2023 Autumn Term (digital)