The comparison has been made, many times in fact, between Bong Joon-Ho’s “Memories of Murder” and David Fincher’s “Zodiac.” If you had to pigenonhole either film into a genre, they’re both essentially serial killer whodunits, each imprinted with the signature stamp of their respective maker. Both films are inspired by real-life events (to varying degrees) and both are also concerned with the high cost of obsession and how a series of grisly, violent crimes send waves of paranoia and panic throughout cloistered communities. Other than that, though — and this is just this writer’s opinion — the films are as different as night and day. Bong Joon-Ho, as always, brings a pointed sense of socio-political commentary to his film (not to mention his characteristically perverse sense of humor) while Fincher’s picture is a more solemn, languorous affair. The director is concerned, as always, with procedure above all else and microscopic detail, and the resulting picture is painted in alluring, menacing shades of that trademark Fincheri-an grey.
Still, it must be said, when you really get down to it, the similarities are hard to ignore. In a new video, “Memories of a Zodiac Killer,” the narrator illustrates how perspective — that of the killer in each film as well as the detectives on the hunt and finally, the audience — is an essential part of constructing a murder mystery that actually works. In both films, it could be argued that the film knows its audience is watching it. And so it must remain one step ahead of the canny viewer at all times, shuffling perspectives as needed and purposefully muddling the narrative so as to keep us guessing. It’s why so often in these films, a detective will simply invent an answer that best suits his modus operandi: because actually getting to the unfathomable truth would be so much more awful than inventing your own version of it. It’s the not knowing that can kill you.
Both films go about achieving this aim in different ways. In “Zodiac”, a simple fade to black denotes a drastic shift in time, while in ‘Memories,’ Joon-Ho specifically casts his eye at a community that all but goes up in flames after the killings commence. Both “Zodiac” and ‘Memories’ toy with perspective as only master filmmakers really can, often letting both the killers and the sleuths look directly into the camera as if to skip past all the chicanery and address the audience directly. Who, as an audience member, can we trust? There’s also the notion of time in each film sort of destroying the way things used to be, and how the crimes in both “Zodiac” and ‘Memories’ sparked a sort of trickle-down effect that distorts both the past and the present. Put simply, it’s great stuff.
What do you think? Do “Memories of a Murder” and “Zodiac” stand as companion pieces to each other? Sound off and check out the video below: