The Last Witness
Director: Lee Doo-yong
Cast: Hah Myung-joong, Jung Yoon-hee, Choi Bool-am
Film genre: Noir
Cert 18, 158 mins, 1980
Distributed by Korean Film Archive
Detective Oh Byeong-ho goes searching for the murderer of Yang Dal-su. Someone has bludgeoned small-time brewer Yang to death by a quiet riverside: no witnesses, no apparent motive. As lone-wolf Oh wanders about the winter landscape of South Jeolla Province and Seoul, he finds himself caught in a story of treachery, rape and murder. It all goes back to Yang’s role as leader of an anti-Communist militia that hunted down a desperate band of northern guerrillas in the final days of the Korean War.
Based on a crime novel by Kim Seong-jong, the film tries to pack nearly all of the book into its extended running time. Dramatic camera angles and off-kilter framing added to the rapid cutting style generate considerable energy. This style also creates a kind of perceptual anxiety which seems to reflect the growing emotional turmoil of our guide into the labyrinth, detective Oh.