There’s a quote attributed to Elizabeth Stone – and, oddly, sometimes to Steve Jobs – that says having a child is like having your heart walking outside your body. In November, Melbourne Cinémathèque’s screening a double feature from Korean director Bong Joon-ho that proves it.
In Jaws, Spielberg famously refused to show the shark until halfway through; in The Host (Gwoemul), Bong’s monster lopes out of the water to cause chaos almost immediately. It’s a fantastic monster, too: its skin has a little fake CGI sheen, but it moves like poetry. Once the monster takes his daughter, the buffoonish Park Gang-Doo and his family fight to get her back, no matter how hopeless it seems. The Host is a beguiling mix of melodrama and slapstick, social commentary and high tension.
In his next feature, Mother (Madeo), the title character is slavishly – maybe even psychotically – devoted to her simple-minded son. (One memorable moment: she feeds him as he urinates against a wall.) When he’s accused of a grisly murder it falls on her to prove his innocence, no matter what it takes. Mother is full of striking imagery and Hitchcockian twists, with moments of grim farce reminiscent of the Coen Brothers. Its first scene is already a mystery; it snaps satisfyingly shut in the last.
Even at his weirdest, demolishing generic conventions and audience expectations, Bong executes each scene with absolute precision. And his new film, the international sci-fi Snowpiercer, is already earning rave reviews. (Slicing it into a shorter cut for Western audiences? Not so much.) Together, The Host and Mother will leave you itching to see it.