This paper aims to review new aesthetical aspects shown in movie “Old Boy.” The word “new” was used here to highlight its postmodern features, different from those in traditional western modernity. It also tries to explain the link between the movie’s post modernity with East Asia’s aesthetics.
Old Boy’s peculiar features also come from denial of the subject and abnormality witnessed throughout the movie. The movie uses hypnotism to dramatize the rivalry between Oh Dae-su and Lee Oo-jin. Particularly, it provides a most effective tool for Lee to control Oh. Oh also picks up hypnotism to forget the memory of the incest with his daughter. Oh is becoming a new person being controlled and manipulated by hypnotism. The abnormal plots in this movie shake the basis of “subject concept,” bedrock of most modern movies. This proves that Old Boy is a kind of post modernity movie.
In East Asia, there has been no strong subject concept. Rather sorcery still prevails throughout nations, which will not change even in the 21st century. This sorcery-centered mentality can be compared with Irrationality from which Max Webber struggled to be liberated. Webber believed that modernization could be possible only when people were disillusioned with sorcery. But Old Boy turns to the irrationality again, placing more emphasis on magical power that manipulates characters’ sub-consciousness than on rational decisions and behaviors. In this regard, Old Boy is a film that represents not only post modernity but East Asian features as well.
Post modernity and East Asian features in “Old Boy” come from breakdown of cause-and-effect relationship and much emphasis on destiny. Unlike the original work, Old Boy does not have either typical rival plots or cause and effect link, still providing viewers with impressive stories. As a result, it succeeds in highlighting power of “irrational destiny,” reflecting the reality where rational control of life may not be possible in the first place. Perception of unknown future is one of post modernity’s sublime expressions.
East Asian people tend to accept destiny very easily. To them, the world is a place where yin and yang alternate according to ups and downs of chi. Pleasure is followed by agony and ascent followed by descent, albeit not all the time. This proves that the world is a place where two opposite things coexist. It also explains why East Asian people accept destiny as part of universal principles while westerners think of it as irrational. No wonder that aesthetics in Old Boy does not cause rejection from East Asian population.
Lastly, Old Boy’s post modernity and East Asian features can be explained by reviewing its hybridity and Ahurum. Unlike the original, the line between fantasy and reality in the movie is blurred as the former frequently interrupts the latter. Sometimes, emotion surplus intensifies images of fantasy. It seems that the movie is straddling between reality and fantasy all the time. Also the movie is not just filled with serious stories but dotted with humorous lines and scenes here and there. Seriousness and humor make a single body and create a peculiar aesthetical emotion. This hybridity explains the post modernity in the movie.
Encompassing two opposite things is called Ahurum in East Asia. Our traditional arts always emphasize the beauty of “tighten” and “loosen.” It means that you should neither tighten all the time (not always tragic) nor loosen all the time (not always humorous). Harmonization between tragedy and humor is of great importance. You can draw analogy from the alternation between reality and fantasy in Old Boy. Fantasy and reality mingle together seamlessly. The beauty of East Asia’s aesthetics is Jungyong which means keeping a “halfway” between two opposite values. In this regard, Old Boy’s hybridity comes from East Asian features.
( H a n y a n g University)