The Last Witness (Choehu-ui jeung-in) (1980)|
Director : Lee Du-Yong
Production Company : Se Kyung Enterprises Inc.
Date of Rate : 1980-09-17
Date of Theatrical Release : 1980-11-15
Running Time : 158 min.
Opening Theater : Myeong Bo Theater
Genre : Anti-communism
Writer : Kim Seong-Jong
Screenplay(Adaptation) : Yoon Sam-Yuk
Producer : Kim Hwa-Shik
Director of PhotoGraphy : Jeong Il-Seong
Gaffer : Cha Jeong-Nam
Music : Kim Hee-Gap
Art Director : Kim Yu-Jun
Editor : Lee Kyeong-Ja
Sound/Recording : Sohn In-Ho
Ha Myeong-Jung, Jeong Yun-Hee, Choi Bul-Am, Han Hye-Suk
Detective Oh Byeong-ho (Hah Myung-joong) of the Munchang PD gets assigned to the murder of Yang Dal-su (Lee Dae-keun). As he follows the trail of clues, Oh begins to seek out the people linked to Yang Dal-su's past. He learns that a man named Hwang Ba-wu (Choi Bul-am) had harbored a grudge against Dal-su. He also meets Kang Man-ho, who is somehow connected to Ba-wu, and Sohn Ji-hye (Jeong Yun-hee), a former mistress of Dal-su's who now works in a bar. During the course of his investigation, Oh discovers a shocking secret: Han Dong-ju, the murder victim in the case that put Ba-wu behind bars, is still alive. Once Oh sets out to track down Han Dong-ju, those around him begin to run interference by eliminating the informant. After a tortuous series of events, it is revealed that Yang Dal-su's murder is in fact the same case as the murder of a lawyer named Kim Jong-yub, and Ba-wu and Ji-hye's son Tae-young becomes the prime suspect. Ba-wu serves out his sentence and is released from prison. When he learns that his son has murdered Yang Dal-su and Kim Jong-yub, he declares that everything is his fault and commits suicide. Ji-hye follows suit. Even though the case has been solved and he has discovered a 20-year-old secret, Oh takes his own life out of guilt at having been the cause of Hwang Ba-wu's family tragedy.
The secret, which came to light after twenty long years, is as follows: During the Korean War, Sohn Suk-jin, the leader of a North Korean guerilla unit deployed in Mt. Jiri, gives a treasure map to his subordinate Kang Man-ho and asks Kang to take care of his daughter Ji-hye, before he dies at the hands of his own men. Kang rapes the young Ji-hye and gets her pregnant. To cover up his actions, he looks the other way when the other members of the unit gang rape Ji-hye. The guerillas kidnap two civilians, Hwang Ba-wu and Han Dong-ju, and force them to travel with the unit. Kindhearted Ba-wu feels compassion for Ji-hye and devotes himself to helping her. The guerillas hide from the pursuit of South Korean soldiers in the basement of an elementary school. Kang resolves to turn himself in, and conveys his decision through Yang Dal-su, who is the leader of a right-wing youth group. But Dal-su and the guerilla suppression unit surround the school, and only Kang Man-ho, Sohn Ji-hye, Hwang Ba-wu, and Han Dong-ju survive the ensuing gunfight. Ji-hye and Ba-wu get married and discover the hidden treasure, using the map given to them by Kang Man-ho. But Dal-su frames Ba-wu for the murder of Han Dong-ju in order to steal Ji-hye and the treasure. Prosecutor Kim Jong-yub, who has been bribed by Dal-su, sentences Ba-wu to death, but he is paroled after serving 20 years in prison. During those 20 years, Ji-hye has given birth to Ba-wu's son and entrusted him to her sister-in-law. Unable to keep rejecting Dal-su's importunities, she has become his mistress. When her son, now grown up, learns about the plot that ruined his father's life, he is consumed by the desire for revenge. Meanwhile, Han Dong-ju, who conspired with Dal-su and has been living in hiding after being declared legally deceased, begins to feel betrayed by Dal-su's change in attitude. He incites Tae-young to murder Yang Dal-su and Kim Jong-yub. Tae-young commits the murders, but goes mad from the resulting psychological torment. Ji-hye reunites with Ba-wu after his release, and starts working in a bar to pay for her son's medical expenses.
"A forceful style in the treatment of history" (Kim Young-jin)
The Last Witness gives testimony to the lives of the powerless individuals who were made to suffer under the fetters of contemporary Korean history. Taking the form of a road movie by having the detective in charge of the case set off on a journey, the movie also offers the element of suspense distinctive to detective mysteries, together with the conspiracies and violent clashes of characters who are hiding secrets from their past. Within the confluence of such generic forms, director Lee Du-yong quietly dissolves Korea's troubled history since the division of the peninsula. Even while candidly revealing the lives of its afflicted characters, the movie employs a bold style of editing that cuts from one scene to the next without allowing time for the audience to indulge in their emotions.
- The movie is based on a novel by Kim Seong-jong, which Bae Chang-ho recently adapted for the big screen once more as The Last Witness (Heuksuseon, 2001).
- Lee Du-yong's The Last Witness is a tragic masterpiece that suffered massive cuts amounting to nearly half of its original running time against the director's will at the time of its release due to forced censorship. The Korean Film Archive (KOFA) restored the movie to a near-complete 154 minutes using the negative film that it had preserved. After KOFA unveiled the newly-restored version, there has been a great resurgence of interest in The Last Witness. In particular, a contingent of industry people led by several young directors is working to get the restored cut released on DVD.
Director Bio: Lee Du-yong (1942- )
Born in 1942. After making his directorial debut with The Lost Wedding Veil (Ilh-eobeolin myeonsapo), he continued to make many films in a variety of genres including action films, melodramas and period films and achieved success with his hit Imbecile (Dol-a-i) (1985) series of action films. He received international recognition for his films that dealt with the plight of women in the Confucian and patriarchal Korean society, receiving the Special Award at the Venice Film Festival for The Hut (Pimag) (1980) and the Prix Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival for Spinning, the Tales of Cruelty Towards Women (Yeoinjanhoksa mulreya mulreya) (1983). His other important works include Eunuch (Naesi) (1986), The Oldest Son (Jangnam) (1984), and Road to Cheongsong Prison (Cheongsong-eulo ganeun gil) (1990).