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Class act

PUBLISHED: 17:05 23 October 2008 | UPDATED: 17:11 16 August 2010

TAKING the themes of class and rank as its starting point, Won Shin-yun s A Bloody Aria is a grim, gory investigation into the nature of bullying and masculine power structures. Moon Jae (Han Seok-gyu), an arrogant middle-aged music professor, meets In-je

TAKING the themes of class and rank as its starting point, Won Shin-yun's A Bloody Aria is a grim, gory investigation into the nature of bullying and masculine power structures. Moon Jae (Han Seok-gyu), an arrogant middle-aged music professor, meets In-jeong (Cha Ye-ryun), a striking young student he has distinctly non-fatherly designs on, by chance at an audition.

Hoping to impress her with his new Mercedes, he takes her out on a drive when he is stopped by a cop for running a red light. Despite his protestations the cop gives him a ticket and, not wanting to lose face in front of his student, Moon flicks the cop a vee and speeds off through a second red light. The cop gives chase but Moon Jae manages to lose him by turning down a little-used side road.

Obviously feeling energised by his brush with the law, Moon Jae makes a sleazy pass at In-jeong who promptly does a runner. While Moon Jae is mulling over his actions things take a sinister turn when a young hick turns up carrying a bag full of dead birds. Things get darker still when he is joined by two other inbreds, only these two are carrying a semi-conscious high school student in a bag in place of

dead birds. They are soon joined by a forth miscreant who has picked up In-jeong on his scooter. While he at first seems charismatic and affable, he is in fact the gang's sadistic leader and it isn't long before he pits his three captives against each other in a series of humiliating mind games which culminate in a bloody finale. The scenario may be a familiar one, but what sets the film apart from others of its ilk is Won Shin-yun's manipulation and explosion of genre conventions. Time after time he uses a familiar set-up to wrong-foot the audience and just when it seems obvious what will happen next, he turns the whole thing on its head. Throughout the film the balance of power shifts and slides and the characters' histories are gradually revealed, blurring the line between bully and victim. The violence is consistently stomach churning but is punctuated by moments of black comedy that force the viewer to question their responses as they fluctuate between disgust, laughter and pathos.

l A Bloody Aria opens in cinemas on Monday.

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