I saw the devil and all you got was this lousy review

Sunday March 13th 2011


While its extreme content might put your average cinemagoer off, I Saw The Devil will have no trouble pitching itself to its intended audience of gore-hungry genre fans. It’s a South Korean revenge thriller (if you can imagine such a thing) from the director of A Tale of Two Sisters, starring him from The Good, The Bad, The Weird alongside him from Old Boy. It has rarely been released uncut, even in its home country, due to levels of graphic violence that would give Antichrist a run for its money. It’s incredibly long and unrelentingly brutal and if it wasn’t also totally excellent, I’d probably have slapped this transparent .png all over the shop by now:

Masterfully directed, surprisingly nuanced and technically astounding (one scene in particular shattered my brain into a million tiny pieces, put them all in an envelope and then pushed it), I Saw The Devil is richly deserving of the praise that’s been heaped upon it. Even at a potentially mind-numbing 144 minutes it remains taut and engrossing throughout, and while it confronts us with horrors rarely seen in such brutal detail, the film is almost entirely morally sound.

I say ‘almost entirely’ because there is one scene in the film which I personally found problematic. It’s a rape scene (of which the film has many) in which the female victim ‘starts to enjoy it’ midway through the proceedings. This particular rape myth is a major bugbear for the BBFC and though Optimum aren’t seeking a theatrical rating for the film (more on that later) it seems unlikely that the scene will pass uncut when it hits DVD and Blu-ray this May. It’s a shame because without it the film is completely unobjectionable, and given that the filmmakers have included the scene in the first place, it doesn’t really deserve to be.

At a time when film distribution is becoming increasingly globalised, the entire notion of censoring commercially released films seems slightly shortsighted. A Serbian Film is now premiering online in the States after failing to get an uncut MPAA rating, effectively ensuring that its audience will not only be far bigger but also potentially younger. On this side of the pond, Optimum aren’t even bothering with the BBFC for I Saw The Devil‘s theatrical release on April 29th, instead securing permission from Westminster council to show the film uncut exclusively at the ICA, with a…

Recommended certificate 18.

While it seems a shame to limit the film’s distribution to a single London borough, it is gratifying to see a distributor choosing not to cut for once. I Saw The Devil‘s perpetuation of an unpleasant rape myth is disappointing and unnecessary, but it’s discussion – not censorship – which will persuade future filmmakers to take such issues into deeper consideration.