“Decision to Leave” (“Resolution to Break Up” in South Korea) plays at the M.V. Film Center the week of Jan. 12. As long as viewers can handle the captions in this 2022 South Korean film, they’ll find it powerful and elegant. It has been co-written and directed by Park Chan-wook, who won the 2022 Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or for best director. The film itself was nominated for the Palme d’Or, as well as for the Oscars Best International Feature this year.
Tang Wei plays Song Seo-rae, wife of Ki Do-soo (Seung-mok Yoo), a mountain climber who was either pushed or fell to his death. Seo-rae, who comes from China and sometimes speaks Chinese, is much younger than Do-soo, and works as a caretaker for the elderly. She seems indifferent to her husband’s death, which, considering the circumstances, makes her seem suspicious.
Park Hae Il, playing the insomniac detective Jung Hae-jun, is especially suspicious of Seo-rae because of her attitude about her husband’s death. Working with his partner Soo Wan (Go Kyung-pyo), he begins staking out Seo-rae, and becomes obsessed with her romantically. He runs into her at a fish market with her new husband, Im Ho-shin (Park Yong-woo). Then this new husband shows up dead in his swimming pool the next day. It’s more evidence that Seo-rae may be the one guilty of murder.
In addition to this complicated plot, the film uses references to American detective films and striking close-ups. It opens with a scene of the two officers at a shooting range holding up close-ups of their large paper targets, and complaining about the lack of crime in the city. Hae-jun’s inability to sleep also alludes to “Insomnia,” a 2002 Alaskan detective film. Later examples of powerful close-ups are one of a cigarette with its long ash hanging on precipitously, and another of Hae-jun’s face during sex. Still another powerful image is of the detective, along with other details of the interior, as doubled. Two other Hitchcockian MacGuffins are animals that appear in separate scenes: a cat and a dead crow. The director also uses colors to vivid effect.
Many other scenes contribute to the plot’s complexity, and make this film so striking. Co-writer and director Park Chan-wook has also directed “Oldboy” (2003) and “The Handmaiden” (2016). At the same time, reviewers have criticized “Decision to Leave” compared with his earlier films and they also have found it successful, and the elegance of this film makes it well worth watching.
Information and tickets to “Decision to Leave” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.