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Tartan's The Vengeance Trilogy 6-disc box set by Slarek

I've expressed my views on the third instalment of Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy in my coverage of the single disc DVD release, which you can access here.

This is part of a six disc, three film set. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy have been reviewed seperately.

The print used here is known as the Fade to White version, in which the colour is slowly drained over the course of the film until the image is monochrome. Park's intention was that this would symbolise a Geum-ja's journey from vengeance-fuelled anger to a sort of redemptive purity. Whether that comes across is another matter, and whether you need this visual assistance to read what is perfectly evident in the narrative itself is questionable. I was certainly a little cynical about the idea, but when I watched it I was surprised how effective it proved to be, although more for the sense of the alteration of tone and mood, the stripping of the colour for a finale in which characters are asked to make a decision in which there are only two possible responses, where action and morality are reduced to a simple black and white – or rather black OR white – decision.

Which version is Park's preferred one is hard to fathom and the extra features go no way to clarifying this. Sometimes it is suggested that this is the version that was always intended, but on one of the documentaries Park states that although he had been toying with the idea for some time and considered it for this film, he abandoned it early on in the production. Certainly the film has at no point been lit for black-and-white – without colour to separate foreground from background, higher contrast lighting and a stronger use of top or back light is the usual approach – and it seems likely that the version included here is something of a supposition on how the film might have looked, rather than how it should.

sound and vision

Being the Fade to White edition of the film, this is obviously a different transfer to the one on Tartan's original UK DVD release, which was an imperfect NTSC to PAL print. The transfer here would appear to be a PAL one – the reduced running time and solid freeze frames seem to confirm this – but it still falls a little short of the quality found on both the Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy discs, at least in consistency, with some night scenes lacking shadow detail or solid black levels. Brighter sequences fare better, and in other respects the print is definitely superior to the previous release, with better sharpness and colour reproduction (while it's still there, of course). The only real issue is the loss of highlight detail in some shots – see the screen grabs below for an example of the differences.

The top pictures are from the original release, with the fade to white print from the Vengeance Trilogy Box Set immediately below

The three soundtracks from the original release can also be found here, namely Dolby 2.0 stereo, Dolby 5.1 surround and DTS 5.1 surround. Once again they are more subdued that I would have expected, but there is a far bigger issue here not found on the earlier release. For about two chapters in the later stages the sound goes out of sync with the picture by almost a second. I first noticed it in the attempted alleyway kidnap, where the sound of blows and gunshots just did not match the picture, but in the scene where Geum-ja forces the translation of a message for her daughter it is painfully obvious. Sync is restored before the end, but this seriously interfered with my involvement in the film. For the record, the sync issue affects all three tracks, and I did try the disc on a number of DVD player/TV combinations and two computer DVD drives with the same result. This really should have been picked up on and corrected.

extra features

The original release was light on extras, something that has been rectified by this version.

Disc 1

Director and Actress Commentary
Park Chan-wook and lead actress Lee Jeong-ae talk about the cast, the film in general and share their memories of the shoot, but also dip into the set and costume design, the cinematography, a research visit to a real prison (cleaner than expected), location filming, aspects of Jeong-ae's performance and a whole lot more. There are a few brief pauses and some rather lightweight moments, but this is still an enjoyable and interesting track. The track is in Korean with English subtitles, and cannot be changed using the Audio button on your remote.

Director of Photography and Art Director Commentary
Cinematographer Chung Jong-hoon and art director Cho Hwa-sung join an allergy-afflicted Park Chan-wook for a discussion on various aspects of the film's production. The expected emphasis on the film's look, and especially the camerawork, lighting and set design is perhaps not surprising, and there's plenty to talk about given the importance of both to the film's feel. CG work you could easily have missed is pointed out and the use of music and editing is intermittently covered, as is the gradual transition from colour to black and white. The banter has its amusing moments too, not least the observation that dressing crew members in orange prison uniforms made them look like TeleTubbies. Another good track, once again conducted in Korean with English subtitles.

Richard Pena Commentary
So-called 'expert' commentaries are a decidedly mixed bunch – at their best (Bey Logan, Christopher Frayling) they can provide a wealth of background detail on a film, but far too often we have to listen to charmless academics pointing out what should be obvious to all but the most the most disinterested viewers. Pena's commentary here falls largely into that category, as he describes the shots and editing and arrangement of actors in frame, but told me little I hadn't already worked out for myself. There is more meat to the analysis of the film's structure and substructure and his comparisons with other film works, but you'll learn a lot more from the other two commentaries and simply paying attention to the film itself.

Director Introduction (1:22)
A short introduction in which Park Chan-wook talks in part about how the movie ends, so don't watch this before seeing the film for the first time.

Disc 2

The Making of Lady Vengeance (10:48)
An EPK that offers a brief look at the making of the film that is busy with behind-the-scenes footage, including some amusingly light-heated moments such as Choi Min-sik fluffing his lines and crew members with bananas stuffed in their mouths to stop them laughing. A cheerless voice-over passes up no opportunity to compliment the fortitude, bravery and skill of the cast and crew.

A section titled The Style of Lady Vengeance contains five featurettes.

Visualization (6:25)
Director Park Chan-wook and cinematographer Chung Jong-hoon discuss the photographic style of the film, the use of a more static camera and the gradual fade to black-and-white.

Production Design (8:20)
Production designer Jo Hwa-seong tells us about the design of sets and the use of colour as an expressionistic device. Includes footage of set construction and computer models of the set designs, all very interesting stuff.

Costume and Make Up (8:07)
Make-up artist Song Jong-hee and costume designer Jo Sang-gyeong explain the role of their contributions to the film. This is an interesting look that an area that rarely gets the attention it deserves.

Art (7:14)
Special art director Hwang Ho-Kyeun takes us on a fascinating trip through the mechanical effects, including a head wound and the Baek-Dog from Geum-ja's dream.

CGI (7:01)
Another worthwhile piece in which FX director Lee Jeon-Hyong shows us some of the film's CG work. The transformation of a landscape from greenery to snow is particularly impressive.

Alternate Scenes with Commentary (14:11)
Alternate cuts of seven scenes with commentary by Park Chan-wook and Lee Jeong-ae. Of interest, but nothing earth-shattering. A couple run for long enough to have commentary dead spots.

A section called Characters has four featurettes. All are of interest.

Lee Jeong-ae (6:32)
An interview with the actress cut with behind-the-scenes footage, kicked off by a back-slapping tribute to her skills.

Choi Min-sik (6:41)
The actor talks about playing the movie's bad guy, and suggests that if the character did exist in the real world then he should be eliminated from it. He describes playing the role as "like an engineering major joining a literature club." He also reveals that following the film's release, "Go screw yourself" became a popular phrase for a while in Korea.

The Prisoners (5:23)
The actresses who play Geum-ja's cell mates talk about their characters and working with director Park.

The Bereaved (7:39)
In a similar style to the above featurette, but for a different group (I'm not going to spoil a key plot point by going further).

Trailers and TV Spots

Teaser Trailer (1:53)
Nicely edited Korean original.

Original Korean Trailer (1:57)
Another very nicely edited trailer that is suggestive without giving too much away.

UK Trailer (1:46)
The trailer you'll find on the original release, and one that gives away too much.

TV Spots (0:33, 0:23, 0:18)
Cut-down versions of the Korean trailer. The "Go screw yourself" line features prominently.


The Fade to White version works better than I'd have thought, and the transfer here is an improvement on the one on the UK DVD release. The extras are busy and plentiful, and it would all be good news were it not for that sound sync issue, which really annoys and is the only real blot on an otherwise fine box set.

Lady Vengeance
[Chinjeolan Geumguemjassi]
The Vengeance Trilogy

South Korea 2005
115 mins
Park Chan-wook
Lee Yeong-ae
Choi Min-sik
Kim Si-hu
Kwon Yae-young
Nam Il-woo

DVD details

region 0
2.35:1 anamorphic
Dolby 2.0 stereo
Dolby 5.1 surround
DTS 5.1 surround
Director and actress commentary
Director of photography and art director commentary

Richard Pena comemntary

Director introduction
Visualization featurette
Production design featurette
Costume and make up featurette
Art featurette
CGI featurette

release date
23 October 2006
review posted
10 January 2007

Related reviews
Lady Vengeance – Single disc edition
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance – The Vengeance Trilogy Edition
Oldboy – The Vengeance Trilogy Edition

See all of Slarek's reviews