As I have mentioned before, I consider “Three… Extremes” one of the greatest horror collections of all time. Park Chan-wook’s contribution to the omnibus cemented my opinion in the best way.
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The film revolves around a successful Director (no names are given to the characters, just their capacities) who, after suggesting to a producer that he should not pick the director who does not care about his actors but just to promote himself, takes the road back to his house. However, as soon as he arrives, he stumbles upon a rather horrendous surprise. A man, who is revealed, eventually, as an extra that has appeared in five of the Director’s films, has captured his wife and soon the Director himself. The Wife, a pianist, is gagged and trapped in a system of sharp wires at her piano while the Director with a short of elastic leash that only allows him to move to a certain distance. Furthermore, a young girl, quite strange-looking, is sitting in the couch and soon the Stranger orders the Director to strangle her unless he wants his wife’s fingers cut.
The Stranger has transformed the Director’s house into a movie set in essence, something which allows Park Chan-wook to direct a film that functions as a grotesque stage play, which follows the rules of the horror/thriller. And while the agony, the many and perverse plot twists, and the exploitation element handle the entertainment aspect of the movie, the underlying setting and the social/philosophical messages are responsible for its context. Regarding the first aspect, Park ingeniously presents a situation which unfolds in a movie set, but where, this time, the director is not the one in charge, but the one who actually has to follow orders, from an extra no less. This base works wonders for the film, as Park’s trademark intelligent irony fills the narrative, while the fact that the director loses his grip to reality the more he realizes he is not in control, also moves towards the same path. The visualization of this part through the elastic leash is magnificent and a testament to the excellent work done in the production design by Ryu Seong-hie and in the cinematography by Chung Chung-hoon.
Regarding the social commentary aspect, Park is once more ironic, as he seems to mock the popular belief that the poor, and the ones “lower in the social ladder” in general are kinder and even more virtuous. In this case, the extra, probably the lowest link in the movie chain, is completely perverse, illogical, and vengeful for almost no reason apart from jealousy, while the director, the strongest link and furthermore, a rich and successful man, is completely victimized. This aspect benefits the most by the acting, with Lee Byung-hun as the Director and Im Won-hee as the Stranger giving excellent performances in radically opposite roles.
“Cut” is an excellent short, and another testament to the prowess of Park Chan-wook, both as a director and a writer.