“Thirst” (Bakjwi)
 
            Those of us who are practicing churchgoers would enjoy seeing a movie about a devoted, beloved, humble pastor, making hospital visits, leading worship, praying with his congregation, and carefully conforming himself to the behavioral standards expected of him by the church.  This priest is so selfless that he volunteers for a medical experiment, being injected with the latest virulent virus in a desperate attempt to find a cure.  All the other 500 subjects die except him, and he comes close, but his hasty transfusion is with infected blood that turns him into a….vampire.  And now he is besieged wherever he goes by the unfortunate, who are convinced that his miraculous survival has given him healing powers.  At first, he attempts to comply with their demands, but he can no longer ignore the dramatic changes taking place in his own body.
            Part of the suspense now is that it only slowly dawns upon him that he can no longer enjoy the dawn.  He has such a powerful thirst for human blood that he finds it convenient to volunteer as a night chaplain at the local hospital, so he can avail himself of comatose patients.  It seems that his sudden lust also includes an appetite for carnal knowledge, which the wife of his best friend seems happy to provide.  (Note to viewer:  the consummation scenes in this Korean film are more breathlessly explicit, and gratuitously visual, than those that we surreptitiously enjoy here.)  His best friend’s mother, a drunken old harpy who unhappily lives with them, suffers a stroke which condemns her to see what’s happening without being able to do anything about it (which would also describe the situation of the viewers).
            This is not your typical vampire movie.  Instead of the weekly poker game, it’s the weekly game of mahjong, but unfortunately, friends become fair game, as well.  Our friendly parish priest finds it increasingly difficult to perform his ecclesiastical duties, since he now sleeps in a coffin by day, and spends his nights indulging his newfound passions, which now include the occasional random murder.  He exhibits a rough kind of invulnerability:  when he cuts himself, he heals instantly.  He can now leap tall buildings in a single bound, and bend coins with his bare hands.  He doesn’t seem to be aging.  This hellish existence could be infernally eternal, especially after his paramour discovers that she can be transubstantiated, also, by partaking of his blood.  (Yes, they play with that theological theme in the movie, as well, the priest gazing into the cup of wine at communion.)
            Yes, much of this screenplay is potentially offensive, but also wryly amusing, as if you literally can’t guess what’s going to happen next. And does it diffuse the offensiveness of the language if it’s spoken in Korean but written as a subtitle in English?
And how much offsetting karma is there in a Christological kind of self-sacrifice at the end, you know, giving yourself up in order to save the world?  The irony there, of course, is that you’re the evil that you’re saving the world from.
            Well.  “Thirst” is definitely for the adventurous mature moviegoer only.  And then only if you’re in the mood for something completely different.
           

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