Addicted headline image

     "If I could be someone else I'd wish that I'd never met you" (Quotation of dialogue spoken by Ye-jin)

Can love be eternal, surviving lies, betrayal and even death? Quite a heavy question that forms the basis for the 2002 South Korean film "Addicted" (original Korean title "Jungdok" – literally "The Poisoning"). The story centres around four main characters: Ho-jin (Lee Eol), his wife Eun-su (Lee Mi-yeon), his brother Dae-jin (Lee Byeong-heon) and the girl who is unrequitedly in love with Dae-jin - Ye-jin (Park Seon-yeong):
Ho-jin's life is everything he ever wanted it to be. He fell in love with and married Eun-su, the woman he is convinced is his soul mate, he runs a successful furniture making business from their home and he has the companionship of Dae-jin who also lives with the couple.

Dae-jin, on the other hand, couldn't be more different from his brother. As already stated he lives with Ho-jin and Eun-su, has no real career and spends most of his time fixing up and racing sports cars. He has no girlfriend but whenever the subject of relationships is brought up (mostly by Eun-su) he says that he is happy with his life the way it is and prefers the freedom of car racing to being involved with any girl, even though he is aware that Ye-jin is in love with him. From the very beginning of the film it is clear that even though Eun-su cares deeply for her brother-in-law she would really like to see him grow up, sort his life out and start dating Ye-jin and it is impossible not to read between the lines to realize that she wants her home to be just for her and her husband.

The status quo remains undisturbed for only a short time before the brothers are involved in separate car accidents at the same time on the same day. Ho-jin crashes his car on the way to see his brother in a race and Dae-jin crashes during that race. Both are rushed to hospital where Ho-jin, showing no brain activity, is placed on a life-support machine. Dae-jin, though badly injured, wakes and immediately starts to act somewhat out of character. On returning home he begins to exhibit behaviour similar to that of Ho-jin - he takes an interest in furniture making, ignores his racing cars etc. - and seems to have intimate knowledge of personal matters previously only shared between Ho-jin and Eun-su. Unnerved by his actions Eun-su confronts Dae-jin who tells her that he is actually Ho-jin - his spirit now trapped in Dae-jin's body. The perspective from which we view the movie moves to Eun-su from this point on and we, like her, have to try to unravel the perplexing, seemingly outlandish and, from Eun-Su's point of view, hurtful claims of her brother-in-law. If Ho-jin's spirit really is in the body of Dae-jin will her love for him remain and if Dae-jin is actually still himself why is he so adamant that he isn't?

Addicted is not a comfortable film to watch but it is also impossible to turn away. The pain that Dae-jin's assertions cause not only Eun-su but also Ye-jin and Dae-jin himself is shown in excruciating detail. The film moves slowly, like many South Korean stories of love and heartbreak, resulting in the possible reasons for Dae-jin's claims constantly changing in their likelihood. Regardless of what the outcome of the story is, and even though that outcome will have entered viewers' heads several times, when it actually comes it is still an utter revelation.
The final scenes of the film provide no easy answers or contrived resolution (for any of the characters) to the climactic events which immediately precede them (I'm being deliberately vague here but I feel that's necessary to avoid spoilers creeping into the picture) and viewers are drawn into asking themselves what they would have done in either Eun-su's or Dae-jin's position.



Director Park Young-hoon uses the mirroring of scenes to great effect in Addicted. "Snapshots" of a happy Ho-jin and Eun-su take on a more melancholy, and somewhat uneasy, flavour when almost identically repeated in scenes between Dae-jin and Eun-su (such as the scenes of Eun-su sheltering from the rain under an umbrella with each of them successively- screencapped earlier in this review). Intimate camera shots that initially illicit warmth and comfort, while Ho-jin and Eun-su are together, become claustrophobic following the accidents leaving viewers with the feeling of being boxed in with nowhere to turn - exactly the way each of our characters feels in succession. Park Young-hoon also manages to pick every facial nuance from the actors in scenes where non-verbal communication is paramount, without ever making it seem contrived.


The entire cast give stellar performances:
Firstly, Lee Mi-yeon, as Eun-su, shows an incredible depth to her acting. Her ability, when needed, to put a voice to her character without uttering a word is vital in a film where no-one is sure if the words they're hearing are true. Lee Byeong-heon, as Dae-jin, carries possibly the most difficult portrayal in the film as he is essentially required to play two completely different characters and does so effortlessly and with impressive emotion. Park Seon-yeong and Lee Eol, as Ye-jin and Ho-jin respectively, play what could be called the ying and yang of love (Ho-jin's love for Eun-su makes him complete, Ye-jin's love for Dae-jin tears her apart) and of the two Lee Eol has the simplest role - playing a happy and completely content Ho-jin up to the point where he is involved in the accident. Though his on-screen time is relatively small his performance successfully sets up the believability behind his relationship with Eun-su, and also Eun-su's future actions. Finally, Park Seon-yeong's role as Ye-jin is easily the most understated portrayal in the film, and therein lies its strength. Her character is, from the outset, resigned to her fate (understanding that what she wants she can never have) and Seon-yeong's depiction of a woman who refuses to turn away from the object of her affections, even though she knows that will mean spending her life alone, is breathtaking.

Park Young-hoon has created a powerful and thought provoking film which deals with the intricacy of relationships, of how love and trust are inextricably linked and the tangled web that can often result. Each of the characters becomes an unwilling victim of the love that they choose and each has to question whether it is better to pay the high price which that love requires or settle for something less than perfect simply to get some peace of mind.
Addicted deserves its place among the best of South Korean cinema's New Wave. If you see it with someone else be prepared for a discussion when the credits roll, if you see it alone prepare for some thinking. Either way, just see it.

Director: Park Young-hoon

Cast (Credited cast):

Lee Byeong-heon ... Dae-jin

Lee Mi-yeon ... Eun-su

Lee Eol ... Ho-jin

Park Seon-yeong... Ye-jin



The DVD edition reviewed here is the UK(Region 2) Tai Seng Entertainment Release which comes with both deluxe packaging and a set of inlay cards. The anamorphic transfer is clean and clear with no noticeable artifacts. The sound is Dolby 5.1 and is expansive throughout. Extras are extensive, informative and well worth watching (although this is best done after seeing the film - once again to avoid spoilers).

DVD Features:
o  Main Language: Korean
o  Available Audio Tracks: Dolby Digital 5.1
o  Sub Titles: Chinese, English
o  Disc Format: DVD 9


o  Making Of Featurette
o  Storyboard Comparisons
o  Music Video
o  Theatrical Trailer
o  Photo Gallery
o  Cast And Crew Filmographies
o  Cast Interviews
o  Trailers

All images © Tai Seng Entertainment
Review © P. Quinn

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