South Korean film director Park Chan-Wook’s revenge drama Oldboy stunned audiences worldwide on its release in 2003 and went on to win several awards at various festivals including the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes film festival. Main character Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) is abducted, held captive for 15 years before being suddenly released without any explanation and has five days to find out why. Originally based on the Japanese manga of the same name, the film cleverly blends mysticism, drama and thrilling action. Oldboy is the second film of what eventually turned into the “Vengeance Trilogy” which started in 2002 with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and concluded in 2005 with Lady Vengeance.
A cinematic and visual tour de force, the film is also underpinned by an outstanding soundtrack featuring a mix of electronica, trip hop and contemporary classical music orchestrated and supervised by South Korean composer Jo Yeong-Wook. The violence depicted in several scenes is often contrasted to great effect with soothing classical pieces such as Vivaldi’s “Winter” or string-based romantic waltzes.
One of the highlights of the score remains the clarinet-led “The last waltz” (or “Mi-do’s theme”) which is played several times throughout the film and as the end credits roll. A memorable minor-key waltz whose nostalgic tone echoes the film’s constant toying with flashbacks.
A wider audience is bound to rediscover the original Oldboy within the next few months as an American remake of the film directed by Spike Lee is due to be released at the end of 2013.