Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Memories of Murder: Part V - Female Representations

"Yet this absence of the mother had hardly nullified her fascinating and spectral presence, which is structured around the male subject’s unconscious desire to return safely to his place of origin. Even though the mothers are not ubiquitously present they are central to the narratives”

Park's Lover...
The position of female characters within these narratives that centralize around the recuperation of male subjectivity is problematic at best. Volume wise, as characters they are few and far between but what they represent is what is more complicated to ascertain. Some essays attack the fact that all the females in these narratives are seemingly just mothers and whores, sometimes both rolled into the same character. Since these films are dealing predominantly with masculine trauma it is not surprising that women in them are depicted as one or the other of these central male-female relationships. In Memories there are extremely few female characters and they add very little to the plot, which is not to say they are not "ubiquitously present". We learn about Det. Park’s family and up until the very end, where he has built his own family away from his past, the only woman we see that he has something beyond a work-based relationship with is the women he is sleeping with. She embodies both "the mother and the whore", a condensed narrative of sorts. We first see her naked having sexual intercourse with Park and immediately following this they engage in a casual post-coital conversation while she administers him with a vaccine. She sates his sexual appetites as well as giving him medical care and thus embodies characteristics of both a mother and a lover. It is true that the women are present throughout in so much that they effect the psyches of the males and are important to their historical, social, and personal developments, but they hardly appear in physical form and are never fully distinguishable characters as they only serves as emblems of their relationships to the male protagonists "the images of women remain prefixed on the rigid bifurcated conventions of whores and mothers". Since the film is all about character types which symbolize a generation and its subjugation, and problematic relationships with itself it is not altogether surprising that this approach is used. However, it is true that women could play a greater role in a number of these narratives. lt could be that the filmmakers in questions are too concerned with there own personal relationships with the characters they depict on screen to be altogether fully aware of the feminine aspect of the societies they embody. Therefore there is "a misogynistic tendency against women“ that “constitutes perhaps the most visible and disturbing symptom of a cinema that has earned its reputation abroad as consisting primarily of "violent introspective melodramas".
...becomes his mother
The other women in the film have similar traits. Gui-ok, the woman at the station only serves to add a feminine touch to the investigation, she listens to a sappy radio show and notices a song that comes up (however this scene does serve to emasculate the stumped male detectives and superintendent) and also interviews the rape victim who isn’t comfortable around men. This rape victim is an interesting characterization as she has suffered from a very real form of trauma and is so scarred that she can no longer live in society or relate to it in any way. As she explains her experience to Gui-ok, the scene is intercut with flashbacks of her experience, which are terrifying and humiliating. Therefore she cannot be said to be a fleshed-out character in her own right, as she is merely a device from which to extract evidence. It seems that all the females in Bong’s narrative are little more than symbols but a look at his next two films (The Host and Mother) makes it clear that he has the ability to do justice to female representations.

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