Park Hoon-jung / South Korea / 2015 / 139mins
Available on Blu-ray and DVD
In a cosseted PC world where animal welfare is sacred, a movie about a tiger hunt may not seem to be the stuff of an easy watch. Nevertheless, this utterly riveting and ravishing movie encompasses adult guilt, the generation gulf, young love, changing society and national pride.
Set in rural post-WWI Korea, the conquering Japanese governor wants tiger trophies and the top huntsman Man-duk (Choi Min-shik) is the guy to deliver. Over-protective of his son Seok (Sung Yoo-Bin) after the death of his wife, the hunter has utter respect for the tigers’ power and pride, especially the giant Mountain Lord. Massed ranks of armed soldiers and country folk attempt to ambush the wily and majestic man-eater until the ultimate brutal showdown, red gore vividly staining the snowy forest floor.
Superbly directed with crisp cinematography (Lee Mo-gae) and editing (Kim Chang-gu), it has some glorious CGI and a lush score. Heady camerawork of sweeping vistas of the mountains and forests of South Korea gives the story extra depth. It is allegorical with a touch of magic realism and a hypnotic finale, which even offers up a tiny soupçon of Disney (without the schmaltz).