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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Blind"

2012/04/07 | 1086 views |  | Permalink

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Following in the footsteps of Terence Young's 1967 thriller "Wait Until Dark", Korean writer/director Ahn Sang-hoon's "Blind" is a suspenseful thriller that dapples in brilliance but ultimately falls victim to some of the ill short-comings of the Korean thriller genre.

Perhaps it was the fantastical premise of a blind women (Min Soo-ah played stoically by Kim Ha-neul) using her remaining senses to ultimately prevail over a malicious and sadistic serial rapist/murderer that caused me to hesitate on this one. Ahn Sang-hoon does have a number of tricks up his sleave that managed to, at least periodically, suspend my disbelief on the unlikelihood of all. One of these techniques will be familiar to anyone who watched Mark Steven Johnson's 2003 comic book adaptation "Daredevil", in which the visually impaired hero utilises 'sound mapping' to survey and analysis his surroundings. A very similar technique is used in "Blind" as Min Soo's visual impairment is replaced by her remarkable ability to delineate her world through sound waves and vibrations. While her skills are nowhere near the level seen in Marvel's "Daredevil", it does serve an empathetic function within the film as the viewer is allowed access to her unique perception on the world and her pursuer.

This 'sound mapping' is accompanied by some clever cinematography and directing as a number of scenes and sequences utilise the camera's gaze to not only create tension, but redefined it though confinement and, thus, limiting the information the spectator has to go on. In one scene, the serial murderer (Yang Yeong-jo) is stalking Min-soo in the subway system. His sadistic and menacing presence is unknown to our heroine until a phone call by Yoo Seong-ho's character Kwon Gi-seob (a teenager who reluctantly decides to become involved in the case), informs her that she is being stalked. Through the camera on her iPhone, Kwon is able to identify him and guide Min Soo to safety. This scene is intercut with shots from the phone's camera that purposefully disorientates and focuses the viewer's vision, resulting in a suspenseful subway chase as our spatial awareness is drastically constricted and a harrowing unawareness of distance is synthesised as a result as the looming threat is taken briefly off screen.

This subway sequence's use of perception works well because the viewer is denied knowledge of the exact distance between Min Soo and the antagonist, and in a chase sequence that is where tension and suspense is birthed. Sadly though, even this sequence was scared by some imperfections as the continuity of events wasn't given enough attention and much of the spatial relations between the characters were negated by poor continuity and editing. Still, it's a good example of how the film constructed itself not only thematically, but visually as well.

"Blond" did contain a strong visual sense of itself, and that was probably its saving grace as weak characters and a ruffled climax put a strong damper on the film's overall impression. Min Soo is a tragic character to be sure, but her apparent inability to overcome her past demons prevent the viewer from engaging with her outside the realms of sympathy. Her tenacity and resiliency is definitely noteworthy and inspiring, as she battles ignorant police officers as well as a psychopathic murderer, but as a character leading the charge her dimensions where a little unbalanced and as a character of conviction, her final moments on screen failed to fully inspire.

Perhaps I am being too harsh in this regard, but it seems to me that my attachment to her journey of self-completeness was achieved as a result of something other than her triumph over her assailant. Her happiness and new achieved sense-of-self came about, ironically, through the peripheral rather than direct confrontation. This leads me the fact that the obstacles and support Min Soo is presented with where undeveloped and lacking depth and relevance. The antagonist in the film was at the forefront of this lack, as he was simply a malicious entity and was not given the required characterisation outside his on-screen presence and sadistic actions. The rest of the supporting cast was similarly marginalised and served as narrative hinges instead of meaningful pieces to the puzzle.

Besides its untypically Korean dénouement, "Blind" was comprised of some of the favoured elements that exist within the Korean thriller genre. Misogyny, impotent authority figures, and the existing of pure evil in the world are but a few to mention here. In addition, the film's suspense is faulted by a few meaningless deaths and a climax that was, although clever and somewhat appropriate, inconsistent and unsophisticated.

"Blind" handles suspense well and has a strong visual sense of itself that will surely entertain and captivate. However, its inability to fully construct its characters along with a number of narrative hiccups forces it to slip just below the radar of brilliance.

-C.J. Wheeler (chriscjw@gmail.com)

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