This is probably one of the more challenging films to write a review for, because there is so much to say and discuss. At the same time I don’t want to spoil anything, and I am not sure my words can really do the film justice.
Thirst is a Park Chan-wook film and if you’ve seen his previous work (like Oldboy) you’ll know he’s a visual storyteller, and there are so many layers to uncover. This film is no different, and it is perhaps one of the most visually stunning vampire-eque films I can remember seeing. On the surface it is about one thing, but as you break through the layers there is so much more going on. I have seen it just this one time and I actually want to go back and watch it again because I know there are things I missed.
Thirst tells the story of a Priest who has become afflicted with vampirism, and this change begins to affect him on every level, including who he is and his beliefs. This leads him to hunger for things he has not cared about before, particularly sex. He befriends a family and in particular a young woman, with whom he finds himself attracted to, and her for him. They begin a very forbidden and crazy romance, one that gets more hectic with every step.
I guess revealing anymore would be a crime, so I shall stop that there. This is not your run of the mill vampire film, nor is it a run of the mill love story. Primal instincts play a huge part here, and there is a strong sense of wanting and needing, especially when it came to the central love story. There are so many layers of deep seeded issues with humanity; Park seems to be able to tap them while cleverly warping this story.
Even the most subtle piece of plot can be unraveled has having a deep meaning. Take for example how our Priest gets afflicted, he volunteers for an experiment in the hopes of finding a cure for a virus. He is perhaps the most innocent man you are likely to come across, and his sacrifice was repaid by contracting the disease. A heartbreaking thought, a theme that is universal, but then you can think about what Park might be saying about drug research. You can take away so many things from the film, and that is just a small piece of the puzzle.
Once the romance begins, you can find themes of temptation, sin, faith, and perhaps those were easier to get across because you have such a strong connection to the Catholic Church. It is controversial, thought provoking, and lets not forget bloody. There are many types of horror films, and I think what makes this one a horror film is the themes it represents, over the harsh gore. The idea that someone so innocent can be corrupted when temptation seems so strong is a scary thought.
The film is stunning to look at, every scene has a sense of purpose, and the set ups to other scenes are just gorgeous. The first time we actually see the vampire flight, it is so haunting but there is something so beautiful about it. As visually amazing as something like Oldboy is, this really challenges that and honestly I couldn’t pick a preference. Then we have the performances, each having a quirk and underlying comedic theme to them. As the Priest we have Kang-ho Song, he is really phenomenal and I loved him here. He conveyed every aspect of the character with such depth and emotion; you really have to appreciate that. Ok-bin Kim as Tae-ju, the woman he falls for is brilliant, she’s difficult to take your eyes off of, she’s mesmerizing in every which way. She really shines towards the third act and I was really impressed.
You aren’t likely to come across a film quite like this, highly recommended viewing.