Love in Decision to Leave:
The idea of the film building a dictionary between the audience and communicating through the common language to share each other’s understanding really struck me. As even from my first watch I found a strong connection to the film and was wondering why the film did so, I realised that Decision to Leave and Park Chan-wook was successful in communicating through the dictionary of the film built by connecting with the audience.
I was motivated to explore further on how the language was built throughout the film. As the theme of love and the melodrama is one of the key aspects of the film, I was intrigued to know how the film communicated the sense of love without the word ‘love’. Jeong Seo-gyeong, the co-writer of the film stated that ‘I wanted to write a melodrama without the word ‘love’. How would I say that I love someone without actually saying ‘I love you’? How could I make the audience hear the phrase ‘I love you’ with just actions and gestures?… So, Decision to Leave was an extended description of love, without the actual word ‘love’’. This almost felt like a challenge to find the moments of actions and gestures which the two protagonists of the film, Seorae (Tang Wei) and Haejun (Park Hae-il), had used to not only communicate between themselves but with the audience. The way Park Chan-wook created an erotic atmosphere to the film despite the lack of nudity or scenes of sexual acts between Seorae and Haejun emphasises how the common language built between the audience and the film was effective.
Park Chan-wook himself mentioned that he intended the film to be as romantic as mysterious it gets, which the intensity of the melodrama increases as the suspense intensifies. The ending of the film can be seen as the peak of its love language, with Seorae’s failure to leave Haejun and becoming the femme fatale of herself, and Haejun realising what Seorae meant by his confession. The film puts great attention to the idea of language and how we communicate with one another. Since language can be in various different forms, not only spoken but in body language and actions, Decision to Leave tackles this idea to communicate with the audience. The film is unlike the films which Park Chan-wook had been making. When his previous films communicated visually, expressing his stylistics of violence, sex and horror in an explicit way, Decision to Leave shows how the same themes can be communicated implicitly, without the visual spectacle.
My video essay focuses on the theme of love and how the language of love is created between Seorae and Haejun. It is split into two chapters, the love language of Haejun and Seorae, exploring the image systems and the motifs in the film where we can find how love is communicated without using the word ‘love’. Although I only introduced three themes for each character, there are more ways in which Park Chan-wook uses in order to implicitly show love and create melodrama. However, I focused on the idea of language as it is one of the most crucial themes in the film.