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Title "The Wailing(Goksung)" Hailed as a Masterpiece in Germany
No 57 Inquiry 1623 Date 2017.10.27

The Wailing, a Korean horror film by Director Na Hong-jin, has been released in Germany. This is a quite late release, long after its world premiere, but major German news media are lavishing praise on the film, placing it in the rank of masterpiece comparable to "The Exorcist."
The film began playing in German theaters on October 12, under the title "The Wailing - Die Besessenen (Possessed)," in 18 cities across Germany, including Munich, Frankfurt, Leipzig, and Berlin, where the film is screened at six theaters that are mostly small arts theaters, enjoying more than favorable comments from German media.
The Spiegel, the leading weekly magazine in Germany, introduced the film in an article entitled “Horror from South Korea: Captivating as ‘The Exorcist’” on October 11. The article began as, "Rightly internationally celebrated: 'The Wailing' finally comes to the cinema in Germany. The film is a classic."
The German weekly magazine also gave a brief overview of Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, which started with the overseas advancement of Korean movies:

"The so-called Korean New Wave has made a sensation for 15 years. Films such as 'Oldboy' or 'Bittersweet Life' were cinematic promises of the rising of Korean movies and individual directors like Bong Joon-Ho, whose latest work is 'Okja,' have become internationally acclaimed filmmakers. The director of ‘The Wailing,’ Na Hong-Jin, left the breathless serial-killer film ‘The Chaser’ in 2008 with no doubt that he mastered his craft."
The magazine intensively analyzed the symbolism of religion and shamanism in "The Wailing": "When Jong-Goo's family engaged the shamans, the hard-boiled crime story becomes a supernatural film. What we see here is a very special mixture: the Catholicism and shamanism spread throughout South Korea are interwoven in many different symbols. [...] The occult and the modern are opposed in an archaic, irreconcilable way."


<The film’s German poster (left) and the article of the Spiegel that praised the film as a “classic”(right)>

The Spiegel was also unstinting in its praise of the film's theme, the director's way of dealing with it, as well as his cinematic techniques: 

"The film basically tells human history: it is about human desire faced with cruelty, which is a desire to act rather than stand idly when evil happens. The novice advises Jong-Goo to trust in his faith and wait. But he is more interested and involved in the extremes. From the very beginning it is clear that the film has nothing in common with the classical structure of the perpetrators and victims. ‘The Wailing’ is a horror film with realistic elements à la 'Rosemary's Baby' or 'The Exorcist'.”

The German weekly did not forget to eulogize the director: “In a unique and organic way, horror, mystery and thriller are merged and create a massive suspense effect. It is a masterpiece with a 156-minute running time, which is no coincidence: for almost three years, director Na worked alone on the screenplay, and until the last scene, he is in the right place.”


On the other hand, the Berliner Morgenpost also hailed the film saying that it is the only third film of director Na but his artistic achievement in the film is unbelievable for being a work of a young director with such a short career. The newspaper also compared the film with “Twin Peaks” and “The Exorcist.”
“The Wailing” is also attracting attention with the promotional activities as well as the media's praises. Magazines distributed free to universities throughout Germany are running a free ticket offering event while introducing the film. The German public broadcaster ZDF also reported the release of the film in its cultural section.
“The Wailing” is the last of the films invited to the Cannes Film Festival last year to meet German audiences. German media are evaluating the film as a "thriller masterpiece" comparable to “The Exorcist.” The reaction of German media shows that the film arouses the interest of the audiences with the combination of spiritual possession, which is familiar also to westerners, and Korean or Eastern shamanism. It is also meaningful that the Spiegel added a brief introduction to the whole Korean film while introducing "The Wailing." It suggests that the film is recognized as another representative work that characterizes Korean movies.


※ References


* Lee Yu-jin, Correspondent in Germany