- Park Chan-wook reveals that the infamous hallway scene in Oldboy was a metaphor for the obstacles people face in life, not just a typical action sequence.
- The scene represents the lifelong battle with things that torture and threaten people, symbolizing the fatigue and loneliness that comes from this struggle.
- While the scene is intense, Park believes there is both tragedy and comedy hidden in life, which is portrayed in the hallway scene as well.
Legendary South Korean director Park Chan-wook reveals that the famous hallway scene from his neo-noir action thriller Oldboy was more profound than many might have realized. The 2003 thriller, which has received numerous plaudits and is widely considered a classic, follows the story of Oh Dae-su, a businessperson who is held captive in a motel-like room for 15 years without knowing who his captor is or what they want. After getting free, Dae-su goes on a brutal revenge mission. Oldboy was later remade in 2013 by Spike Lee.
In a conversation with Inverse, Park reflects on Oldboy 20 years after its release, and he particularly touches on the infamous gruesome hallway scene, explaining that the numerous men who fought the protagonist were simply a metaphor for the many obstacles that threaten one’s life. He went on to touch on the humor of the scene, stating that there’s irony and comedy even in the hardest of times. Read Park’s full quote below:
“The point I wanted to express was that those enemies are not important people. This is not a scene in which the protagonist is dueling with the main villain. These are men hired by a man who was hired by the main villain. These people are never going to make an appearance again and all of them are unnamed characters. You can almost say they’re abstract beings. So being surrounded by these people and fighting with them for what feels like an eternity, I felt like this was literally a metaphor for one man’s life.
“So if we call one man’s life a battle, this battle-istic attitude, uh, there’s things in life that fight with us, like an illness or anything in life that threatens us, or for instance, an internal conflict. Well, I almost saw the scene as a materialization of those things that fight with us and torture us in life. And the fatigue and loneliness that comes from this lifelong battle, with these things that torture us. I saw it as a metaphor in that way.
“If we look at life from a distance, like in the hallway scene, there is tragedy, but there’s also comedy. It’s this intense battle, but there are also these ironic and comedic moments hidden in our lives.”
More Details On The Oldboy Hallway Scene
The famous Oldboy scene where Dae-su battles his way through dozens of cronies to escape captivity has become one of the most iconic scenes in modern day cinema. It has served as a point of reference and inspiration for other films and shows, like Netflix’s Daredevil, who have tried to replicate the scene. What makes Oldboy‘s hallway scene so impressive is that the chaos in front of the camera was almost the same as that behind it. This popular sequence featured one long, unbroken panning shot, and it reportedly took three days to film.
Additionally, little to no CGI was used in the scene, except for a knife that was stabbed into Dae-su’s back. In fact, minimal CGI was used in the entirety of Oldboy, even during the scene where Dae-su devours a live octopus. That was filmed with a living creature and reportedly required four takes.
Since he made his breakthrough years ago, Park has proven to be an incredibly meticulous and thoughtful director whose works look to explore various aspects of the human existence. The Oldboy hallway scene is without a doubt one of Park’s most profound depictions and explorations of the struggles that everybody faces, proving that there’s brilliance beneath the bewilderment.