Even though I'm no more than a monster - don't I, too, have the right to live?
-Quote from the film Oldboy (2003)
One of my interests outside of writing is film and movies. Recently I have been collecting movies including what are considered to be classics, some independent films, and a new genre for me-Asian horror and drama. One weekend I watched three very different movies and by sheer coincidence all three films had a theme of suicide. It dawned on me after watching these movies that suicide is such a pervasive part of our humanity that this theme crosses all geographic boundaries and cultures. In this post we are going to explore some of the messages that film and movies give us about one of the most serious and potentially fatal symptoms of depression. Some of the questions we will try to answer include: Is there anything we can learn from film about the way a suicidal person thinks? Can we learn anything about cultural beliefs regarding taking one’s life. What is the healing process for those who are left behind following a loved one’s death to suicide? We will try to answer these questions and more from the framework of three vastly different movies from different cultures and film genres.
Film #1: OldBoy (2003) Korean drama with English subtitles
Basic Plot: Oh Dae-Su is a seemingly average man who is kidnapped off the street and is imprisoned in an old motel room for fifteen years. During these years he has no contact with the outside world except through watching television. Reminiscent of the classic tale of revenge, The Count of Monte Cristo, Oh Dae-Su plots his revenge on his unknown captor during his imprisonment. Oh Dae-Su is released only to find that he has five days to figure out who was behind his imprisonment and his captor’s motivation.
Notes: This is not a film for the faint hearted. The violence contained may remind you of films such as Pulp Fiction. It is one of those films you may have to watch twice to get the full impact and meaning. There are no words wasted in this film so it is vital to pay attention to all of the dialogue.
How this film depicts suicide: The movie begins with a dramatic scene where Oh Dae-Su is clutching onto a man’s tie as he is leaning backwards over the roof of a building. When the suicidal man is brought back to safety he pleads, “Even though I'm no more than a monster - don't I, too, have the right to live?” This phrase is repeated in the film as the mantra of someone who is both contemplating suicide but also life. Revenge is the central theme of this movie and how it can keep a person alive. But once that revenge is achieved there is always a pain which never goes away.
• The suicidal person struggles with the belief that they are so horrible that they must die and the wish for forgiveness that will entitle them to life despite their transgressions. The person contemplating suicide may wonder if they deserve to live. The answer they come to may ultimately decide their fate.