Won Shin-yun’s Memoir of a Murderer is a story of a serial killer and is not as straight forward as first expected. Afflicted by a brain injury that has led to dementia leaving him living with memories of the past but frequent losses of any new memories. When a new spate of murders occur around the local town Kim Byeong-soo (Sol Kyung-gu) at first fears for his daughters safety, then questions whether it was himself that was unknowingly committing these new killings.
This is a great interpretation of an unreliable narrator as we are never sure whether he has partaken in a new spate of murders that are plaguing the town or whether this really is a new culprit. Byeong-soo’s switching between paranoia, culpability and determination in solving these murder mysteries is really well done. The story unfolding is not quite the word to use, it is more like watching a Rubik’s cube that is being slowly solved whereas at some points it looks more complete than others, it then gets messed up again in order to make it to the next, more complete stage.
There is an excellent central performance from Sol Kyung-gu that underpins the entire film, without which it would seem a lesser piece of work. The other two main characters, his daughter Eun-hee (Kim Seol-hyun) and the antagonist Min Tae-ju (Kim Nam-gil) ably support, giving additional emotional weight and added threat respectively. But by far the stand out performance is from Kyung-gu as he not only drives the film onwards but superbly carries the feeling of this film throughout: the despair of losing your mind, the frailty as he gets older and less capable, but also the familiar – his duty of looking after his family and remembering what he did and how he killed.
There are a few minor issues that I had with the run time, being just a little too long and drawn out towards the end. And although the switches back and forth from clarity to unknowing, from certainty that he knows the new killer’s identity to questioning himself, are well done just they occur too often, meaning that any tension that is built dissipates or no progress towards resolution seems to be forthcoming.
Overall Memoir of a Murderer is really well directed with some amazing sequences as we flick back and forth in the mind of Byeong-soo. The story is really well constructed, despite it’s complexity, and the superb central performances really do make this film something special.