Aimless Bullet is Yu Hyun-mok’s most exemplary work and a key piece of Korean realist cinema. The film captures the collective anxiety of post-war Korea through clerk Cheol-ho and his family. A commercial failure upon its initial release, it was soon banned by the military government, finally receiving its due recognition when presented at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1963. Since then the film has gained legendary status in Korea as a classic awaiting rediscovery.
Cheol-ho and his family are trapped in the prison of a powerful, unyielding social structure. He is a tortured soul and often ends up wandering around the streets of Seoul late at night. We witness him singing the popular ballad Sa-ui Chanmi (Praise of Death) to himself and this epitomises the feeling of self-hatred and hopelessness that has been central to Korean society since the Japanese occupation instituted a culture of domination and exploitation. Aimless Bullet is not simply an anti-war film; rather it extends to the wider context of human existence in all its chaotic glory.
Part of the London Korean Film Festival, taking place 1-14 November. http://koreanfilm.co.uk/