THE WORLD OF SILENCE (2006)
Intriguing and even Parnassian despite its dark subject matter, a psychic and a detective hunt a serial killer abducting orphaned girls
The topic of a serial killer, especially one that hunts young girls, seems ripe for the type of ultra-confronting thriller that perhaps Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil) or Na Hong-jin (The Chaser, The Yellow Sea, The Wailing) would be well placed to create.
Instead, Cho Ui-Seok manages to muster something far more poetic and reflective. Keeping the serial killer and their acts largely hidden. Focusing instead on two leads with differing worldwide views and notions of reasons and evidence.
Jung-ho (Kim Sang-Kyung – Memories of Murder, Tale of Cinema) is a renowned photographer who has recently returned to Korea from overseas. Aside from his framing skills, Jung-Ho has the psychic ability to read people’s minds.
Despite his talents, Jung-ho is plagued by the traumatic memories of a former girlfriend who took her own life. On his return, he becomes a temporary guardian for Soo-yeon (Han Bo-Bae – Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance), a young girl whose mother is in a coma.
A series of gruesome murders begin to unfold, with the bodies of orphaned girls being found in bizarre locations surrounded by obscure clues. On the hunt for the killer is Detective Kim (Park Yong-Woo – Blood Rain), who instantly starts to suspect Jung-Ho when he appears at various locations and even the scene of one confrontation.
While Jung-ho is driven by his abilities, Detective Kim, who is often lazy and overtly laid back, uses the inductive reasoning of an investigator as the pair’s divergent worldwide views try to find the killer, all while Kim maintains his hunch over Jung-ho’s potential involvement.
The film plays on this patter being two very differing lead characters, slowing building the mystery through their eyes rather than those of the killer they hunt. This careful balance of intrigue leads towards a resolution which injects the lion share of the thrills into this otherwise gentle-paced thriller. It is a resolution which operates on enough levels to make the wait worthwhile.
There is a lyrical nature to the way the film builds its characters and their relationships. The suspense simmers, never feeling the need to boil under the very end.
While the focus of evil is chiefly on a serial killer hunting young girls, there are an array of inner demons and tragic events which layers our characters and their actions. How remorse and pain can sculpt the people we become and our motivations for others to avoid the same fate.
In a film that outwardly seems to be driven by a narrative thrust and the ticking clock nature of serial killer hunting films, the reason it works is the performances of Kim Sang-Kyung and Park Yong-Woo in what is instead a character study.
Paired with the atmospheric direction of Cho Ui-Seok and the willingness to fling the film down unexpected alleys of discovery, results in The World of Silence subverting the serial killer and thriller genres with something far more rewarding in its nature.