Bong Joon-Ho is easily one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. The South Korean auteur is the mind behind some of the most innovative and rousing films of the past decade. From a distance, his works have a tendency of looking like generic genre fare, but in reality Bong deconstructs the borders of such genres, forcing us to reconsider our arbitrarily planted notions, all while retaining a true emotional and cathartic connection to character. “The Host” made horror original and compelling like it hasn’t been in years. “Mother” offered a wildly fresh take at the crime/thriller. And “Snowpiercer” changed gears every time Chris Evans’s Curtis changed train cars (successfully, I might add).
All of which is to say that it’s easy to forget the groundwork laid at the foundation of a great film. To help remind us of one of the oft-forgotten skills that Bong excels at is a new video essay by Every Frame A Painting, “Memories of Murder (2003) – Ensemble Staging.” The seven-minute video takes us through the way Bong uses characters, their placement, and their body language as part of the mise-en-scène. Instead of relying on cuts to direct our attention, he lets his actors work together, play off one another, and guide us to the focal points through a myriad of intriguing and captivating ways.
“Memories of Murder” is one of Bong’s finest works, an absurdist take on a serious subject that never foregoes gravitas for a joke, rather seamlessly blending the two to create something altogether original. Not to mention the craft of the film, which in the hands of another director, might have wound up as generic as so many other films today.
Check out Every Frame A Painting’s ‘Ensemble Staging’ and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.