Last Christmas, Mrs Blog fell in love with Edward Cullen of Twilight and blogged about it on this site. The great appeal to that story was the unresolved yet undeniable passion Edward and Bella had for each other.
In Thirst, Park Chan-wook’s (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) own take on vampire mythology, we get a blood gurgling and kiss slurping romance between Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song) and Tae-joo (Ok-bin Kim). Sang-hyeon, a celibate and faithful Catholic priest, volunteers to be a subject for medical research. He is infected with a bubonic-plague-like illness that kills off all the test cases except for him, who is given a blood transfusion which contains vampire blood. The vampire blood keeps the plague at bay but he now has an unexpected sensorial sensitivity and a taste for blood.
The story is faithful to most elements of vampire lore and plays faithfully as a vampire movie. Sang-hyeon is forced to reconsider his Catholic vows as he contemplates ways to quench his thirst for blood without actually killing anyone (similar to the moral conundrums of Edward in Twilight). He has a passionate romance with Tae-joo (most dis_similar to Twilight), the wife of a childhood friend who is trapped by both her gormless husband Kang-woo (played with hilarious effect by Ha-kyun Shin) and his overprotective mother Lady Ra (Hae-sook Kim).
Chan-wook uses his very black and bloody humour to take the consequences of vampires to their logical conclusion. What happens if you have super-human strength (and can’t die) but you fight another vampire who also has super-human strength ? How do you feed off a victim you’ve killed and their heart is no longer pumping blood around the body? Sang-hyeon leaps from a tall building with Tae-joo in his arms but realises that they might be a little too high to leap back on to – he carries her up the stairs instead.
I won’t tell you what the Tupperware containers are used for except to say that the manufacturers would (probably) be gratified.
The Catholic guilt however underpins Sang-hyeon’s conscience and he is forced to confront the untenable circumstance he finds himself in : he does not want to kill others for the blood that he needs. In what is a rather touching final scene, Sang-hyeon and Tae-joo ride off into the sunrise (but not before some equally comic byplay from Tae-joo). It is interesting to note that Lady Ra, in her catatonic state, plays the all seeing eye to the lovers every move. God and judgement it would seem is always watching.
Kang-ho Song, who plays Sang-hyeon, is a Park Chan-wook regular but might be most recognised for his performance in the 2006 cult hit, The Host. Even though he is a big man, his manner is gentle and his slightly bewildered expression quite appropriate for the role of Priest.
For Chan-wook, there is an awful lot to like for his fans and the packed MIFF cinema is testament to how many of us there are. For those who abhor the “drama” of Twilight, Thirst is for you.
“Vampires are cuter than I thought.” You won’t hear Bella saying that.