I Saw the Devil is the most gruesome film I have ever seen. I have never hated a movie character as much as I did when I watched this movie. I didn’t just want to see him die–I wanted to be his killer.
The premise of the movie is that Kyung-chul is a cannibalistic murder-rapist who targets young and attractive ladies that are alone. The first victim we see is Kim Soo-hyeon’s fiance. Kim, after the murder of his wife, is given a leave of absence from his civic duty; he then assumes the role of bad cop. He tracks down Kyung-chul, beats him up, plants a GPS device in his stomach, and tracks him. Kim’s purpose is to make Kyung-chul feel more pain than whatever pain was inflicted on his fiance; he doesn’t want to kill Kyung-chul right away.
The most disturbing thing is that I empathized with Kim. Kyung-chul did the nastiest things and preyed on the most helpless of victims. It was so unfair what happened to those girls. I wanted to see Kyung-chul pay for what he did, and, in the midst of the movie, I abandoned my morality and fully desired to see Kyung-chul die slowly and in the most pain possible.
However, this desire was hardly fulfilled. Kyung-chul died a rather quick death. I wasn’t able to savor it, and I hardly doubt Kim savored it either. This caused me to question whether Kyung-chul’s death was justifiable in any sense. With disturbing remorse, I concluded that it wasn’t.
Revenge in the reciprocal sense is never justice. It is merely the outplaying of our beastly nature and will only serve to perpetuate a cycle of revenge. True justice is the abandonment of that cycle. Justice is forgiveness–especially when forgiveness is hardest.
I had no relational attachment to Kim’s fiance or any of Kyung-chul’s other victims, but I think I would find it hard to forgive him for his barbaric acts. How much more difficult would it be if I were Kim? Unimaginable! Yet, forgiveness would have been the most powerful and just thing to do.
This film opens up an incredible avenue of discussion on the topic of justice. What do we do with criminals? What is a criminal? How should punishment be allotted? Why are we so moved to be vengeful? What is justice?
What do you guys think?