Last week I saw White Night, the Korean film adaptation of Keigo Higashino’s 東野圭吾 critically acclaimed novel Byakuyako 白夜行, at Palace IFC. I am a big fan of the author’s novels but I entered the cinema without having read this particular novel. Byakuyako had already been made into a Japanese TV drama a few years ago (I haven’t had the luck to see that one either) and since the success of the Galileo 神探伽俐略 series and the Suspect X 嫌疑犯 X 的獻身 movie in Japan and many parts of Asia, Keigo Higashino’s fiction has become hot property for re-development.
I found the Korean White Night very entertaining and apparently it is the director Park Shin-woo’s debut feature film. I went in with no preconceived ideas or expectations since I hadn’t read the book. Seen as a thriller / blockbuster, White Night succeeds in providing viewers with an engrossing whodunit plot. The suspects in these murders include a gigolo and a beautiful woman who is on the verge of marrying a business tycoon and launching her own fashion line. The film starts with a series of murders and gradually unfolds by jumping back and forth between the present and the past to unravel the mystery. Production values are solid, the plot is fast paced and while I don’t know too many of the actors in the film (I’m not that knowledgeable in South Korean stars), they did seem believable in their respective roles. Son Ye-jin stars in the leading role, and although she is an award-winning actress in South Korea, I have never seen any of her movies. The only star I recognized was Han Seok-kyu, whom I remembered from the blockbuster Shiri. Labeled a Category III film in Hong Kong, White Nights has a few sex scenes but I didn’t find them excessively explicit and didn’t really notice any frontal nudity; I suspect the classification has more to do with one of the character’s pedophilic tendencies.
Overall, I had a good time and rate this as one of the better thrillers I’ve seen so far this year.
Postscript : I enjoyed the movie so much I ended up reading the novel afterwards. The film basically only borrows the the opening and closing chapters from the novel, a good decision as the books are quite expansive. The novel uses a linear narrative that covers the characters’ progression from primary school children to scheming adults. The movie simply focuses on the final part of the novel with the characters on the verge of fulfilling their dreams when every thing comes crashing down; flashbacks are used to explain their motives and elaborate ploys. Judged on its own, I still think White Night the film is a success.