Today I watched Park Chan-wook’s Thirst (2009)
While on the outside it appears as though father Sang-hyun is a very pious man who dedicates his time to the well being of the ill, he harbours great sadness in his heart. As such he has signed up to be a human test subject in the treatment of a rare and fatal illness. Of all the people who sing up to test the vaccine, he alone survives for reasons that are unknown at the time. As he returns to life in the world, news of his recovery has spread and people think he has healing powers, he doesn’t actually, instead he is slowly transforming into a vampire. Being a christian though, he refuses to kill and manages to make do by stealing blood from hospitals and from the donation of an old priest.
The plot really kicks off when he takes part in an old friend’s weekly mahjong nights and falls for his wife. Soon they begin an affair and she learns of his vampirism, wanting to be one too and to escape her dead end life. This situation just goes so wrong and soon Sang-hyun is caught on some very unstable ethical ground as he disagrees significantly with his new lover’s philosophy on the matter. Maybe that’s something a vampire should work out before siring others of it’s kind, both this film and Interview with a Vampire have drama largely driven by the conflict between killing and not killing. So if you ever find yourself a vampire in need of company remember that philosophy on the value of human life is much more important to a relationship now.
While it has become a laughably over done trope, the vampire romance is an insepperable element of the monster’s portrayal now. Thirst is probably the best in this vein as, more than any other vampire film, it really manages to humanize it’s subjects and get beyond the cliches. Sang-hyun is such a singular vampire character, not just because of his antithetical faith but because of just how much time the film spends on him long before it brings out the horror. Even the actual conflict is held at bay for a nearly excruciatingly long time as we get to know the film’s subject. All of this pays off with one of the finest finales I have ever seen in film, a powerful emotional moment that relies on a lot of set up to be what it is. In that sense the movie really isn’t as consistent as one might like as the build up is hard to even remember with what the finale offers. It’s a really excellent film, all things considered, but in some ways it is defined by waiting for it’s final moments. 4/5