Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Oldboy (2003)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Oldboy (2003, S. Korea)

In director Chan-wook Park's mysterious, compelling, mysterious, and visceral (double) revenge thriller - a neo-noir and potently sinister tale (mostly in flashback) of revenge, hypnotism, and incest adapted from the Japanese manga written by Tsuchiya Garon:

  • the film detailed the circumstances of a womanizing businessman Dae-su Oh (Choi Min-sik) in the late 1980s who was inexplicably kidnapped from a phone booth (on his daughter's 4th birthday, July 5th!), taken away in a van, and imprisoned for 15 years in a strange, dingy, windowless hotel-like room in South Korea without knowing the charges; there, he learned by TV during his long imprisonment that he had been framed for his wife's murder, and that his young four year-old daughter was sent to live with foster parents in Sweden; he also suffered hallucinations of ants crawling on him and emerging through his skin
  • Dae-su was inexplicably freed and released by his former grade-school classmate - villainous, sadistic and insane captor-tormentor Woo-jin Lee (Yu Ji-tae), with only five days to find answers: to seek surrealistic vengeance against his captor(s) and prison officials, and discover the enigmatic reasons for what had occurred, while engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with Woo-jin
  • recently-freed Dae-su stumbled into a sushi restaurant where he became acquainted with helpful and young sushi chef Mi-do (Kang Hye-jeong); after consuming a wriggling, live octopus (eaten headfirst!) and receiving an enigmatic phone call from Woo-jin, Dae-su fainted; Mi-do took pity on him and took him in; she assisted him in following clues in order to unravel the mystery
  • the major revelation was that persecuting millionaire villain Woo-jin's diabolical vengeful plan of imprisonment against Dae-su was in retaliation for an incident years earlier when they were classmates at Evergreen school; Dae-su had been blamed by Woo-jin for spreading a rumor: ("Your tongue got my sister pregnant") regarding an incestuous pregnancy (between young Woo-Jin and his own slutty sister Lee Soo-ah (Yoon Jin-seo) who were having sexual relations); when rumors spread the news of the incest, and Woo-Jin's humiliated sister experienced a false pregnancy, she allegedly committed suicide
  • Dae-su located the private prison where he had been incarcerated for 15 years for supposedly "talking too much"; in a vengeful tooth extraction scene in the control room of the prison, Dae-su forcibly extracted (with the claw of a hammer) 15 of the teeth of the prison manager Park Cheol-woong (Dal-su Oh); Dae-su explained: "I am going to avenge myself for all 15 years. Each tooth I extract will age you by one year"
  • Dae-su suffered many setbacks and punishments as he went about seeking answers, finding vengeance and trying to locate his young daughter
  • eventually, grown-up Mi-do became Dae-su's lover - she signaled to him that she was ready to have sex, by singing a song mentioned in Dae-su's journal: "The Face I Want to See"; falling in love and having sex with her was the villain's diabolical vengeful plan all along - to have Dae-su experience the same pain of incest; Woo-Jin had raised Mi-do in secret, and had both Mi-do and Dae-su hypnotized to fall in love when she grew older - a punishment suited to fit the crime
Incestuous Sex Between Dae-su and His Own Daughter Mi-do
  • Dae-su begged for Woo-jin to not inform Mi-do of their incest; he debased himself, eventually deciding an extremely-painful tongue self-excisement with a rusty pair of scissors - to find atonement and to prevent any further rumors or talk after realizing he had taken the virginity of his own long-lost daughter Mi-do (an act of unintended incest!)
  • the main reason for Dae-su's imprisonment, learned by the film's end, was the film's major plot twist - in a startling flashback scene set in an elevator, Woo-jin experienced a guilt-ridden memory revealing that he had murdered his own sister (by letting go of her over the side of Habchun Dam) - she had not committed suicide; as the guilty memory from years earlier came over him, he shot himself in the side of the head inside an elevator as the door opened, leaving a bloodstain on the wall

Woo-Jin in Elevator
Flashback to Woo-jin's Murder of his Sister

Sister's Murder
Woo-jin's Suicide in Elevator
  • in the concluding hypnosis scene - Dae-su was attempting to erase his unbearable knowledge of his lover Mi-do being his daughter, by hiring a female hypnotist - who proceeded to put him in a spell - she asked him to return mentally to Lee Woo-Jin’s apartment and to split up into two different people when he heard the sound of a bell she was holding; two different Oh Dae-Sus were viewed: (1) one who had no memory, and (2) a monster who held the secret; the hypnotist's intention was to destroy the monstrous Dae-Su who knew the truth:

    "The hypnosis may go wrong and distort your memories. Do you want to proceed? If you're ready, Iook at that tree. The tree is slowly changing into a concrete pillar. You're now inside Lee Woo-jin's penthouse. It's a dreary night. The sound of your footsteps crossing to the window fills the room. When I ring my bell, you'll split into two people. One person doesn't know your secret: Oh Dae-su. The one who knows your secret is the monster. When I ring the bell again, the monster will turn around and start walking. With each step, he will age by one year. When he reaches 70, the monster will die. There's no need to worry. It will be a very peaceful death. Now, good luck to you"

  • the film's ambiguous ending was in an unidentified place, in the snowy mountains where Dae-su found Mi-do lying in the snow: Dae-su was embracing Mi-do who told him: "I love you... Dae-su" - but the film didn't answer the question: Did the hypnosis work? Did he remember the truth about their true identities?

Dae-su Imprisoned for 15 Years

Live-Octopus Eaten Headfirst

Rumors of Sex Between Young Woo-Jin and His Own Sister Lee Soo-ah, Spread by Dae-su

Prison Manager Mr. Park's Tooth Extractions


Dae-su's Tongue Self-Excisement

The Hypnotist - To Erase Dae-su's Memory

Ambiguous Ending: Did the hypnosis work?


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