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A thought becomes a monster of a film

Posted at 3:05 PM on March 7, 2007 by Euan Kerr


The crowd scatters when an unexpected visitor erupts out of the Han River in "The Host." (Images courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

Director Bong Joon-Ho says he was standing on the balcony of his apartment looking at the Han River flowing through Seoul one day when he suddenly imagined a monster lurking beneath the water.

It's the kind of random thought that strikes many of us, but Bong worked with it, and a short time later he was being lauded at the Cannes Film Festival for his movie "The Host."

What's refreshing about "The Host" is its commonsense approach to what would actually happen if a giant amphibious monster suddenly leapt out of the river in the middle of an urban capital and started eating people. Sure there would be carnage and chaos. But Boon's city is populated by everyday folk who react in pretty ordinary ways.

Bong pits a food stand worker Gang-du (left) and his family against the monster when it grabs his daughter and disappears back into the river.

Fearing the worst they are overjoyed when she manages to call them on her malfunctioning cell phone to report the big beastie regurgitated her in the monster equivalent of a live box.

Gang-du (Song Kang-ho of "Sympathy for Mr Vengeance") soon finds he's also up against local bureaucrats who decide the monster is carrying a deadly disease, and so they quarantine the area where his daughter is trapped.

"The Host" is at times creepy, funny, and pathos-filled. All in all it's very human. The monster who makes marvelous use of a prehensile tail also ranks as one of the best in years.

And the fact that Bong Joon-Ho celebrated his appearance at the Edinburgh International Film Festival with a trip to look across the waters of Loch Ness just adds a little bit of icing for me.

March 2007
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