Memories Of Murder (2003): How The Real Story Of A Maniac Ended? Who Is The Killer? Explanation Of The Ending, The Meaning Of The Film, What Real Events Is The Detective Based On
Country: South Korea
Genre: detective, crime, thriller
Year of production: 2003
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Kim Sang-kyung, Kim Rwe-ha, Song Jae-ho, Byung Hee-bong
tagline: “1986, in a small town… everything was new to two detectives”
Awards and nominations: Chunsa Film Art Awards-2003 – Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and many other awards.
Memories of Murder (originally titled Salinui chueok) is a very powerful film based on a true story. This is a film adaptation of the story of a Hwaseong serial maniac who committed a series of rapes and murders over the course of 5 years. The offender was identified only in 2019, when he was serving a life sentence for the murder and rape of his daughter-in-law. It is noteworthy, but for a series of murders committed in 1986-1991. nothing threatens him, because the statute of limitations has expired. The screen adaptation of the story turned out to be very spectacular, but the meaning of the film “Memories of a Murder” turned out to be incomprehensible to many: the director left an open ending.
Based on real events
The anti-hero of this story, Lee Jun Jae, is infamously known as the “Hwaseong Ripper” or “Korean Zodiac”. In 1994, a man was arrested for the rape and murder of his sister-in-law and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years. Currently serving a sentence.
However, even before his arrest, Lee Zhong played a good trick in his native Hwaseong. On September 15, an elderly woman was raped and killed here. A month later, the police find the next victim, and in December the third. The city is overwhelmed by a wave of murders. The victims are women aged 14-70 years.
The ongoing investigation was unparalleled in scope. About 2,000,000 people were interrogated, the detectives had 21,000 suspects. The last confirmed murder attributed to the Hwaseong maniac was on April 3, 1991.
It is noteworthy that Lee Zhong was also among the suspects, but then the blood type did not match. The maniac was identified only in 2019 by DNA. The most interesting thing is that the criminal does not face an increase in the term, despite the confessions. The statute of limitations has expired for the crimes committed in Hwaseong. Therefore, in theory, a maniac can be free, taking advantage of the chance for parole.
What is the movie about
The content of the film “Memories of Murder” very accurately reflects the events of those years. It takes place in 1986. The bodies of two raped and murdered women were found in a provincial town. The case is resonant and requires a special approach, however, local detectives Park and Cho Yong Koo act with their usual methods. They try to extract evidence from people who fall under suspicion.
Song Kang-how as Park Do Man, Kim Sang-kyung as Seo The Yoon, Kim Rwe-ha as Jo Young Gu. Frame from the film.
The first suspect is the mentally handicapped Baek, who has been keeping an eye on one of the victims. Taking advantage of his gullibility and dementia, would-be detectives pull the guy to kill, but So Tae, an experienced policeman who came to the rescue from Seoul, intervenes in the matter.
There is initially no mutual understanding between temporary partners. But gradually the relationship is getting better. There is a connection between the victims. All the girls were killed in the rain. At the same time, one of the employees of the police station notices that the same song is heard on the day of the murders. The composition is quite rare and ordered infrequently.
Pulling this thread, the detectives go on the trail of the factory employee Pak Hyun-gyu. It was he who ordered the song on the radio and is suitable for other parameters. However, only DNA results can expose him. In Korea, such tests are not done, so the detectives are forced to ask for help from colleagues in the United States.
In the absence of direct evidence, the suspect is released, but left under supervision. One day Seo Tae misses a suspect, and on that day another murder occurs. The detective is sure that Hyun Gyu is guilty. He finds him sleeping at home, puts him in handcuffs and takes him to the railway near the crime scene.
The detective is about to shoot the guy, but the lynching is interrupted by his partner Park, who brings the DNA results obtained from America. No DNA matches were found, so the partners are forced to release the suspect. He hides in the tunnel, Seo shoots him in the trail, misses, and Hyun Kyu leaves.
Frame from the film.
Then the film “Memories of Murder” takes the viewer to 2003. Park retired from the police, is raising adult children, and is engaged in business. Driving past the place where the first victim was discovered in 1986, he gets out of the car and inspects the gutter.
A schoolgirl passing by asks what he is doing here, and reports that recently another man also examined this place. When she asked what he was doing, he replied that he wanted to remember what he once did here. Park realizes that it was the killer and tries to find out from the girl what he looked like. The witness answers laconically: an ordinary person. Park looks into the camera as if into the eyes of an elusive criminal. Titles, final.
Who is the killer
Unlike the characters in the film “Memories of Murder” and the director, we know exactly how the story ended in reality. The idea of the ending is that the criminal is on the loose, and looking at the camera, Park seems to want to meet his eyes. In the course of the story, he repeatedly demanded that the suspects look into his eyes, being sure that he could immediately see through them. At the end, he looked into the eyes of Hyun Gyu, but could not see in him a ruthless killer.
However, based on the essence of the film “Memories of Murder”, Park is just an opinionated person who sees only what he wants. Yes, in the course of the investigation, his worldview changed, but in general he made a mistake. He stared into Hyun Gyu’s eyes for a long time, probably feeling that they had handcuffed that person. However, he was confused by the DNA test, which refuted this. As a result, the criminal remained at large.
The meaning of the ending of the film “Memories of a Murder” is that Hyun Gyu was the killer. Only the DNA result was against him, but Detective So, who always believed various papers, said that this document was a lie. This is an experienced policeman who did not make mistakes and managed to accurately reach the suspect. Based on this, we can conclude that in the case of Hyun Gyu, he was not mistaken.
Therefore, the most logical explanation for the ending of the film “Memories of a Murder” is the criminal – Hyun Kyu. The most interesting thing is that real history confirms this. In life, the criminal also did not match the blood type and he was one of the suspects. True, it became clear only after the film was released. Of course, the real Hwaseong maniac could not come to the scene of the crime: he was serving a life sentence. The director could not know this nuance, but he beat the ending very subtly and interestingly.
The meaning of the film
The explanation of the meaning of the film “Memories of Murder” lies in the final scene. The girl saw the killer and talked to him, but could not tell what he looked like. Ordinary. It is in this word that the interpretation of the hidden meaning lies. The open ending and the piercing gaze of the former detective into the camera clearly indicate that anyone can be a killer.
An ordinary one is a housemate, a random fellow traveler on the bus, a work colleague. Any person would fit this description. We are all ordinary, while everyone has their own personal demons in their souls. Therefore, in general, the meaning that the director laid down is that the killer can be any person whom you never think of. Ordinary.
Movies like Memories of Murder
- Instrument of Death (South Korea, 2011). Film based on real events. In 1991, five children went out to catch frogs and were never seen alive again.
- Memories of a Killer (South Korea, 2017). 17 years ago, a serial killer decided to quit. Now he lives with an adult daughter and is struggling with impending Alzheimer’s. One day, he collides with a car with blood oozing from the trunk.
- Zodiac (USA, 2007). Screen version of the true story of America’s most mysterious killer, nicknamed the Zodiac. He kept San Francisco in fear for more than 10 years, but he remained uncaught.
- Seven (USA, 1995). Detective William Somerset is about to retire, but he runs into a very sophisticated killer. The maniac punishes his victims for mortal sins, following the biblical canons.
- Montage (South Korea, 2013). 15 years ago, a girl was kidnapped. It was not possible to find her and the kidnapper. Nowadays, someone leaves a flower at a crime scene and kidnaps another person.