In a world where films strive to impress their audience with action-packed scenes and visually stunning effects, there is power in the ordinary. This is the case with Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave”, where a seemingly prosaic scene of two people talking in a room becomes a masterful display of visual storytelling.
Mundanity as a Force for Creativity
While many directors rely on visually stimulating action scenes and special effects to impress their audience, Park’s creativity lies in his ability to turn seemingly quieter moments into powerful cinematic moments. He understands that by focusing on everyday situations, he can evoke deep and relatable emotions in his audience.
In the film’s interrogation scene, Park uses the mirror as a tool to visually communicate the characters’ innermost thoughts and desires. The mirror adds an extra dimension to the scene, creating a visual representation of the power struggle between the two characters. This visual imbalance adds tension to the scene, but it also represents a subconscious desire for connection between the two characters.
Park’s use of visual storytelling is not limited to the interrogation scene. Throughout the film, he employs a range of techniques to convey meaning and emotion without resorting to excessive dialogue. For instance, in the hospital room scene, the focus shifts from the Chinese woman in the center of the shot to her husband on the side. The camera then zooms in on his face, and the focus becomes sharp, revealing the moment of his passing. This powerful visual technique allows the audience to experience the emotional weight of the scene without the need for excessive dialogue.
Park’s approach to filmmaking is not about relying on cheap thrills and special effects to impress the audience. Instead, he understands that the power of a film lies in its ability to evoke emotion and engage the viewer. By focusing on scenes with a lack of action, he is forced to be creative and use his skills to bring depth and meaning to his work. He understands that the beauty of cinema lies in its ability to convey meaning through images and sounds, and not just through dialogue.
Visual Imbalance as a Subconscious Interest
In the aforementioned interrogation scene, director Park Chan-wook uses a range of visual techniques to convey the unspoken thoughts and desires of the two characters. One such technique is the use of visual imbalance to communicate the characters’ subconscious interest in each other.
The mirror behind the characters is the key to this technique, as it adds an extra dimension to the shot, creating a visual representation of the power dynamic between the two characters. By dividing the shot into four equal sections, Park uses the horizontal and vertical axis to show which versions of the characters are in focus. The horizontal axis separates the conscious and the unconscious, while the vertical axis separates the characters.
The characters’ focus is constantly shifting throughout the scene, depending on who is speaking. When the Chinese woman is speaking in her native language, she is in focus, while the Korean detective is out of focus. The same happens when the Korean translation begins playing from the woman’s phone, with the focus now on the detective. Meanwhile, their reflections in the mirror switch in focus so that whoever is speaking is facing the other person’s reflection.
This visual imbalance creates tension in the scene, but it also represents the characters’ buried desire to connect and communicate eye to eye. Despite the interrogation’s confrontational nature, the generated visual imbalance communicates a sense of curiosity rather than suspicion. As the characters’ focus shifts back and forth, it is clear that they are interested in each other, even if they are on opposite sides of the law.
This use of visual storytelling is not limited to the interrogation scene, as Park employs similar techniques throughout the film. By using the power of visual storytelling to convey complex emotions and thoughts, Park creates a rich and engaging cinematic experience that transcends language barriers and cultural differences.
The use of visual imbalance to convey subconscious interest is a powerful tool in the directorial arsenal. In “Decision to Leave,” Park Chan-wook uses this technique to great effect, creating a tense and engaging interrogation scene that communicates a complex range of emotions and desires. By focusing on the power of visual storytelling, Park creates a cinematic experience that resonates with audiences on a deep and emotional level.
Departing from Hope
While the first act of “Decision to Leave” is marked by a hopeful tone, the second act departs from this optimism and becomes increasingly dark. However, Park Chan-wook continues to use a range of techniques to convey meaning and emotion.
The climactic scene of the film takes place in a hospital room, where the Chinese woman is faced with the choice of whether or not to unplug her husband from life support. The shot is divided into three sections, with the woman in focus in the middle, and her husband and the doctor out of focus on either side. This creates a sense of isolation for the woman, as she is the only one in focus, while her husband and the doctor are disconnected from her.
The focus then shifts to her husband, who suddenly comes into focus, revealing the moment of his passing. This use of visual storytelling is incredibly powerful, as it conveys the emotional weight of the scene without the need for excessive dialogue. The woman’s reaction is not shown, but the audience can feel the impact of the moment through the use of visual storytelling.
This technique is a testament to Park’s skill as a director, as he is able to convey complex emotions and thoughts through his use of visuals.
The Power of Mundane Scenes
In a world where films often strive to impress their audience with action-packed scenes and visually stunning effects, Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave” is a testament to the power of mundane scenes in film. By focusing on everyday situations, Park is able to evoke deep and relatable emotions in his audience.
Through his film, Park demonstrates that the most predictably boring scene a film can offer, such as two people talking in a room, has the potential to impress the audience when in the hands of a great director. The scene between the Korean detective and the Chinese woman is a perfect example of this. While typically expository in nature, Park uses the mirror behind the characters to add an extra layer of visual interaction, making the scene visually engaging and full of intrigue.
Park’s approach to filmmaking is not about relying on cheap thrills and special effects to impress the audience. Instead, he understands that the power of a film lies in its ability to evoke emotion and engage the viewer. By focusing on the ordinary, he is forced to be creative and use his skills to bring depth and meaning to his work. Through his use of visual storytelling, Park creates a rich and engaging cinematic experience that transcends language barriers and cultural differences.
Through these scenes, the audience can connect with the characters on a deeper level and experience their emotions and thoughts in a more profound way. In this way, films become more than just entertainment, they become a way for people to connect and understand each other.
Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave” is a brilliant example of the power of ‘dull’ scenes in film. Through his use of visual storytelling and his focus on the ordinary, Park creates a cinematic experience that is emotionally engaging and intellectually stimulating. His films are a testament to the fact that the power of cinema lies not in its ability to impress through visual spectacle, but in its ability to connect with the audience on a deep and emotional level.
As audiences, we are often drawn to films that promise excitement, action, and visual spectacle. However, it is important to recognize the power of the more duller scenes in film. Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave” demonstrates how a simple conversation in a room can become a visual masterpiece through the use of visual storytelling. By focusing on the ordinary, filmmakers are forced to be creative and use their skills to bring intrigue and emotional weight to their work. In the hands of a great director, even the most boring of scenes