*WARNING: SPOILER ALERT*
The scene in which Oh Dae-su ties up Mido exemplifies Oldboy’s successful use of camera angles, blocking, and symbolism to convey the anger and violence that result from the loss of agency within adult males. The scene begins with a close up of Mido’s face as she struggles against Oh Dae-su’s hand while her arms are tied behind her head. After a pan up Oh Dae-su’s arm to his face, the film cuts to another close-up of Mido’s face, this time as she bites Oh Dae-su’s hand. The camera lingers on this action before cutting to a close up of Oh Dae-su’s face, unaffected by Mido biting him. This close up is followed by a long shot of Oh Dae-su sitting on top of Mido as she continues to bite his hand. Oh Dae-su answers his phone, not bothering to change his position. Upon hearing that No Joo-hwan has found the identity and location of Evergreen, Oh Dae-su gets up to find something to write with. The film then cuts to a shot of Oh Dae-su writing the address on Mido’s stomach, ignoring her cries and struggling.
The close-ups create a claustrophobic feeling in most of the frames, highlighting how Oh Dae-su’s anger and violence is inescapable (for both him and those affected). Every frame is dominated by Oh Dae-su’s control over Mido, mirroring his need for control over his own life. Despite the fact that Oh Dae-su is no longer a prisoner, he is still held captive by his mission to find Evergreen and seek revenge. Oh Dae-su’s life is still controlled by outside forces, so he attempts to regain some measure of control by exerting his power over Mido. This is especially apparent during the close up of Oh Dae-su’s hand clenching Mido’s throat and face. By forcing the image of Mido’s struggling face into the forefront of the frame, the film displays a very real example of the results of Oh Dae-su’s anger over his lack of agency.
In addition to the violence that dominates this scene, there is also significant use of hands that tie into the hand symbolism seen throughout the film. Director Park Chan-wook commented on this symbolism in an interview, saying, “At the dam, Woo-jin releases Soo-ah’s hand. That is the origin of all the hand-images. He could have saved his sister. But he released her hand. That was the beginning of the tragedy. That’s why I used hand images.” The scene where Oh Dae-su ties up Mido contains two close ups of hands that play into the symbolism that Park describes. The first close up of Oh Dae-su’s hand clamped over Mido’s face is particularly relevant to the social commentary on violence present throughout the film. In this moment Oh Dae-su’s motivations are clearly visible, as he attempts to control Mido to compensate for his loss of agency. Although this shot and the incentives behind it are quite different from the scene at the dam, the shot illustrates the variety of driving factors behind the relationships in the film. Despite the romance that develops between Oh Dae-su and Mido, Oh Dae-su’s revenge mission exerts complete control over his life.
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