Hong Kong Cinema

Memories of Murder (Salinui chueok)

  • Made: 2003
  • Aka: Salinui chueok
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: Reg 2 PAL
  • Release Date: 24 Jan 05
  • Company: Optimum Asia
  • Length: 125 mins
  • Picture: Anamorphic 16:9 widescreen
  • Sound: DD2.0 Stereo
  • Language: Korean w / English subs
  • Extras: Trailers, Deleted Scenes, Interviews, Featurettes
  • Classification: 15


Bong Joon-Ho


Song Kang-Ho, Kim Sang-Kyung, Kim Roe-Ha, Song Jae-Ho


Memories of Murder Boon Joon-Ho is currently famous for recent festival darling and wonderfully crazy horror allegory The Host (also starring the excellent Song Kang-Ho) and is also responsible for the darkly comic Barking Dogs Never Bite, which criminally has yet to secure UK distribution.


Between 1986 and 1991 ten women were killed in Hwaesong, a small rural town, in South Korea's first case of serial murder. The murderer was never caught. Inspector Park is the local detective investigating, and along with hotheaded inspector Jo, he tries his best to preserve crime scenes and uncover evidence, but is not above forcing confessions and consulting a mystic to achieve results. Inspector Suh has come from Seoul and tries to be methodical, looking for patterns that the killer is following, and searching for clues, but starts to feel despair and frustration as the bodies pile up and the suspects thin out.


There's an air of poker faced humour to begin with, especially with Song Kang-Ho's bungling police work standing at odds with the serious nature of the crimes, but it serves to make the chain events more shocking when they do happen, and as the movie progresses it becomes truly awful. Inspector Suh starts to feel the frustration and lashes out, becoming little different from the local police and giving in to his emotions when nothing else is working.

The film is beautifully shot, making the most of the locations and tracking the change from the bright, warm sunshine of the beginning through to the dank, sodden end through expressive use of the weather. Amazing performances from Song Kang-Ho and Kim Sang-Kyung as the lead detectives investigating the murders; they have you feeling the frustration and despair right along with them, and Bong Joon-Ho's direction manages to stay away from any particularly gruesome visuals whilst still maintaining an air of menace and revulsion around the crimes.

The only real criticism is with the juxtaposition of the dumb country bumpkin officers and the professional city detective which seems a little laboured, but based on a true story it's hard to jump to conclusions about the plotting. Essentially this is only a minor point and the film succeeds as a whole, through the pacing, acting and photography which all meld convincingly and paint a realistic portrait of an investigation progressing in the dark, much like the victims on their last journeys between the rice paddy fields.


The picture is crisp and clear and does justice to the beautiful cinematography, while the stereo sound handles the dialogue, effects and music well. Alongside the trailer there are some enlightening interviews with the actors playing the three detectives, fifteen minutes of deleted scenes with optional director's commentary, a featurette about the use of CG effects in some scenes and a three minute piece where the director discusses the real case on which the film was based, making for a rounded collection of background material to compliment the feature.


Memories of Murder is a slow builder that grabs you with the superb acting, piling on the emotion and tension toward the ending until you feel with the characters. A top-notch thriller and another high point for contemporary Korean cinema.