The Hidden Meaning of Oldboy – Earthling Cinema

The Hidden Meaning of Oldboy – Earthling Cinema

Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema.
I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is “Oldboy,” starring Choi Min-sik,
which, roughly translated, means “Korean Josh Brolin.” Now I should probably give you a spoiler alert,
but I’m not going to, because my policy is that if you haven’t seen it after twelve thousand years,
you’re probably not going to see it. Oldboy tells the story of Oh Dae-su, a man who is celebrating his daughter’s fourth birthday by getting wasted, which is what
humans call it when they get slizzered. He is promptly kidnapped and wakes up in a hotel-inspired prison, so basically a Best Western. He is held captive there for fifteen years,
during which he passes time by punching the wall. Dae-su is released without explanation, and
immediately finds the nearest restaurant, where he ingests what I believe is called
a KFC Double Down. It is here that he befriends Mi-do, a young
chef who is sympathetic to his cause. Eventually, Dae-su’s captor reveals himself.
His name is Lee Woo-jin, and as Dae-su discovers, they went to high school together. Go Wildcats!
Dae-su suddenly and conveniently remembers that while in school, he had spied on Woo-jin
having incestuous relations with his sister, then spread rumors about it,
causing the sister to kill herself. Coincidentally, the prom theme that year was “Enchantment Under the Waves.” Woo-jin saves the best for last: Mi-do is
actually Dae-su’s daughter! If there had been a spoiler alert,
it would have been right before that. Woo-jin imprisoned Dae-su for fifteen
years so his daughter could grow up, and then used hypnosis to spark an attraction
between the two. Classic Woo-jin. Ever the concerned father, Dae-su
begs Woo- jin not to tell Mi-do the truth, even cutting out his own tongue as a gesture of goodwill, or maybe just to be gross. Woo-jin agrees and then gratefully accepts his membership in the “killing yourself” club. Later, Dae-su and Mi-do hang out in the snow. The end. One of the most important themes in “Oldboy”
is the human concept of the Truth. Although Dae-su is let out of captivity,
the only way he can really free himself is by discovering why he was locked up. Until then, he is merely living in a “bigger prison.” Presumably smaller than the prison planet,
Phantron 8, but still pretty big. Humankind was obsessed with the truth, insisting it
be upheld in business and personal relationships, although not in politics for some reason.
As keeper of the truth, Woo-jin taunts Dae-su by saying, “Like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler, free yourself.” The best way to free yourself is with money —
I’m talking cold, hard Won. Woo-jin is exhorbitantly wealthy, which makes him virtually omnipotent, like the flying guy in the Superman movies. With enough money, he can pay to have a man imprisoned for fifteen years, or get a man to cut off his own hand, or have a doctor
install a kill switch for his pacemaker. Heck, with the kind of dough he’s throwing around he could probably buy the New York Yankees, whatever that is. Conversely, Dae-su
is a salaryman, whose name means “getting through one day at a time.” He fights back
against the system using common items like a hammer (a symbol of the proletariat)
and a toothbrush (a symbol of tartar control). You might even say “Oldboy” holds
a mirror up to capitalist society. The reason you might say this is because mirrors are featured prominently in the film. Here we go, rapid fire: Dae-Su tries to kill himself using glass from a mirror. When Dae-su confronts Woo-jin, he is shown in a mirror. Woo-jin’s sister uses a mirror
to see Dae-su spying on her. Dae-su’s face is reflected at the end of the photo album. And during the final hypnotism, Dae-su sees the monster’s reflection in the window. The last two aren’t technically mirrors,
but come on, cut a guy some slack. These mirrors (and mirror substitutes) indicate the fragmentation of the self, which for us is normal, but for humans was distressing. Dae-su asks himself, “After my revenge will I be able to go back to the old Oh Dae-su?” The old Oh Dae-su has a tongue, so probably not. Oh Dae-su is similar in many respects to the
Greek character Oedipus, from his name to his haircut. Oedipus relentlessly pursues the truth against the advice of his wife/mother Jocasta. Dae-su pursues Woo-jin at his penthouse against the advice of his girlfriend/daughter/sidekick Mi-Do. When the truth is discovered,
Oedipus stabs his eyes out with gold pins. Dae-su cuts out his tongue with scissors made of an undisclosed material, most likely metal. Woo-jin says revenge is good for your
health, like a nice juice cleanse. But what happens when the revenge is complete?
Will those old painful feelings return? I’m leaning toward yes. Perhaps the only real salvation is to forget.
After Oh Dae-su finds out about the whole daddy-daughter situation, he asks the hypnotist
to help him forget his secret and kill “the monster.” Despite what the human Bible says,
the truth doesn’t always set you free. This is the only inaccuracy in the human Bible. The ending is ambiguous. Dae-su smiles, but
his smile quickly fades into a frown. Has he successfully forgotten? Is he laughing
with the world? Or is he weeping alone? Or is he just freezing his cute little butt off? For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. To get revenge on someone from your past,
click the subscribe button.

100 thoughts on “The Hidden Meaning of Oldboy – Earthling Cinema

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  7. Great video, but I'd like to point out two things.

    1) Woo Jin did not (yes, not) plant a "motor" that makes his heart run. In the end, when Dae Su turned on the switch the recording of him having a sexual relationship with his daughter, plays. And again, it emphasizes how Dae Su was tricked into the whole situation like Woo Jin described prior to the scene.

    2) Also, the "ambiguous" smile at the end is actually quite self-explanatory. While the hypnotist told Dae Su to step back 70 times so that the Monster dies, Dae Su doesn't take these 70 steps as the footsteps on the snow are way less than 70. Also, the movie showcases the film being cut off representing the fact that Dae Su managed to break out from the hypnotism that is supposed to kill the monster. This "ambiguous" smile at the end shows how happy Dae Su was because Mido told him "I love you" yet a part of him still remembers that she's his daughter and the acts bring a frown to his face. Although his instincts are telling him to smile, his sane self still remembers the truth which is why he smiles in such ways.

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  11. wait, the part i don't get is when he ask the lady to hypnotize him what actually part of the memory was erased? is it the whole idea of Mido being his daughter or the whole incident before he actually locked up?

  12. His tongue killed Woo Jin's sister. That's why he cuts it off to show Woo Jin that he's truly sorry and not to take further revenge by telling his daughter the truth. It's a story about revenge alright…. Woo Jin's revenge, not Dae Soo's.

    And BTW the wisdom of the story is not that the truth will set you free. The truth will imprison you. Everyone lives within a prison of regrets, everyone has done shitty things in their lives, and has fucked up before. People have to find ways to deal with their past mistakes. No matter how good or bad the truth may be, you can either weep or smile when dealing with it:

    "Laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone."

    Laughter and sadness are essentially the same things, they are ways that humans have found to deal with the fact that the world isn't perfect and can often be shitty at times. Tragedy is at the source of all laughter and jokes.

  13. I always felt that Lee Woo-jin and Oh Dae-Su, although separate people, often were represented as aspects of the same person. Oh Dae-Su always acts impulsively and neurotically, possibly representing the anxious drives of the Freudian id, while his captor could represent the super-ego, at the top of his tower, punishing and in control. The 15 year imprisonment might symbolize the repression of the anxiety and guilt about the experience of losing his sister. While he is in here, Oh Dae-Su writes down all his poor and immoral behaviour, wondering what he is being punished for and setting himself on a path to redeem himself. Once Oh Dae-Su is unleashed, it is like this monstrous energy from an unresolved conflict resurfacing from the unconscious. In his search for the truth, Oh Dae-Su now resembles the ego adhering to the reality principle. He is trying to bring his past to light to resolve his tortured mind. We see the character discover that his rumor spreading is what lead to Woo-Jin's sister's suicide and is the explanation for his ongoing torture. He confronts this in the penthouse, where a number of interesting things happen. When the bodyguard is killed, it is almost like the lifting of a defense mechanism, one of denial of Woo-Jin's own guilt. I always felt even the big twist about Mi-do being his daughter was just the projection of the horrific past onto the present, a neurosis forming out of his immoral past actions. When Oh Dae-Su cuts off his tongue, it is clear that he has undergone the ultimate punishment for his rumor spreading. Then, Woo-Jin killing himself is almost like the defeated purpose of his torture. His passing of blame shifted his feelings of guilt away, but this final confrontation with Oh Dae-Su, representing his repressed guilt, finally lifted this denial. It is clear now that it was his feelings towards his taboo actions and his sister's death that caused him to torture Oh Dae-Su. It wasn't only driven by a need for revenge, it was to motivated by his own need to deny. I always felt that the last scene was Oh Dae-Su trying to overcome his mental illness through therapy. He is not trying to forget that Mi-Do is his daughter, because she is not, he is trying to leave behind his pathological thoughts and self-torture, represented by "the monster". His smile at the end is because he is with Mi-Do and has lifted the curse, and his look of pain means that the guilt of his rumor spreading is still real, though not interpreted pathologically any longer.

    I love watching these "Hidden Meaning" videos, but often feel like they concentrate more on political and social influences in the film that don't really enlighten me any more about the deeper meaning of the plot itself. I'd rather explore some of the psychological aspects of these thrillers, because the impact on the audience is much more psychological I left thinking about the trauma of the characters, not about mirrors on capitalist society… I'm not saying my own interpretation is the intended one, that I have it all correct, or that its complete. That's the beauty of film, there is always more to figure out, always subjective perspectives. One thing is clear though: Oldboy is much more than a tale of revenge, and that's why its so compelling. It is about how past trauma influences our minds, and how confrontations and attempted resolutions are violent and messy. The way the characters are portrayed, and the events that structure the plot are deeper than they appear and constructed (both intentionally and naturally) as metaphors to interpret this bigger picture. A Freudian interpretation can work to uncover parts of that metaphor, but so can others. Film is a great way of delivering meaning in this way because the events don't have to make real sense, like dreams, and they can exist in their own realm with their own rules. Great films construct their rules to make some sort of coherent sense though, whether emotional or philosophical etc… Oldboy for me is definitely one of those films.

  14. The truth DOES set you free, Dae-su refuses to accept the guilt and by proxy LOCKS away his past, his sins, any potential for forgiveness. Nothing good comes of this movie's "lesson"

  15. I think he knows in the end that mido is his daughter. The hypnosis didnt work, as the hypnotist warned. In the end there are footsteps in the snow leading to dae su, just like how the monster was supposed to "leave"

  16. You didn't give any hidden meaning, you just said they had lots of mirrors. And said the ending was ambiguous… thanks already knew that.

  17. I love mystery but my man this was messed up even before half way in the film I knew something wasn't right about the girl. Thought she must be the daughter especially after we found out Woo-Jin slept with his sister. What a brilliant twist makes sense. Great Film.

  18. Wow. Thanks for helping me dodge a bullet (to think I actually was going to see this movie). What a messed up nightmare.

  19. This movie, Old Boy, made me physically and mentally sick to watch. The cinematography, lighting, fight choreography, soundtrack, coloring and especially the plot and actors/actresses are all deeply disturbing. Also, as easy as it is to accidentally own or even partially view this incestuous, schizophrenic disaster of a mind-f**k (and that there is an original AND a remake) make it that much more off-putting and horrifying!

  20. If you hadn't seen your daughter for 15 years then you were to somehow see them, you would see the face and be familiar with it as they look compared to the mother or even yourself, or other member of your family. Also the pheromonal smell would indicate the familiarity too. Then you would ask the woman how old are you and the age lead you to the right conclusion. Also the voice of the woman maybe familiar sounding, let alone the regional accent. Logic

  21. seeing a condom add while watching television with your dad ..! i am just out words !! worst situation ever !!!!!!!!

  22. I don't understand, dae suo was the eyewitness of that occurrence. Yes he told that to his friend but he also warned him
    not blub to anyone about that.and he also didn't spread rumor of her pregnancy . So my question is, was it that so big sin for keeping him locked for 15years and so all those so much pains??then why the 2nd boy who started the rumor from dae suo was forgiven?

  23. I just watched this movie and clicked on this video to see what other peoples interpretations of it were and I just get this eyebrow nigga lookin at me pretending to be a mf alien shut yo bitchass fucking retarded piece of shit go back to mars you fucking crackhead

  24. how in the bloody hell google know that i just finished watching this movie just a day ago. and proceed to recommend me this video, wtf !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. In the end, De su asks for the blue pill and goes back to the matrix where he continue living with his daughter.

  26. Back when incest was seen as gross. Now when I go on PornHub it’s all brother/sister or daughter/daddy themes lol.

  27. Woo Jin taunts Dae-soo throughout the film to find out "why" and then kills himself after Dae-soo does discover the truth. This is in line with the Sphinx from the Greek mythology of Oedipus. In the myth, the Sphinx gives Oedipus a riddle. Once Oedipus solves it, the sphinx kills herself.

  28. I don't think it is the main character fault because he's just a telling what he saw which shocked him, and even if the main character have made a mistake in unreasonable form 15 years in locked cell will be fucking enough, it's all the brother and sister fault who did accept doing that

    The brother was so smart to do all that plan
    But he has no wisdom
    After taking his revenge he suicided cause he still not able to forgive himself and getting relieved
    Which proofs
    (Intelligence is doing things right but wisdom is doing the right thing)

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