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“Decision to Leave” – a sexy movie without the sex part

The tension and chemistry between the two characters in “Decision to Leave” is beautifully portrayed without any adult scenes.

After the massive success of the 2003 movie “Oldboy”, which won Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes International Film Festival, director Park Chan Wook became a representation for Korea in the international cinematic realm. From “Joint Security Area” (2010) to “The Handmaiden” (2017), his projects have always hit it big with brilliant storytelling and intricate messages, creating a color unique to Park Chan Wook and himself alone. 

Thanks to his impressive cinematic vision, Park Chan Wook often finds himself winning and getting nominated for various prizes at international film awards, and his huge achievement at the Cannes has earned the director the title “Cannes Park”.

In addition, Park Chan Wook was also awarded the Critic’s Choice with his vampire thriller “Thrist”, and Best Director with his new film “Decision to Leave”. With 3 grand prizes, Park Chan Wook is one of the most successful Korean actors as of the moment. 

“Decision to Leave” stars actor Park Hae Il, who plays the male lead Hae Joon, and actress Tang Wei, who assumes the role of the female lead Seo Rae. The movie revolves around a Korean policeman, who madly chases after a mysterious yet alluring widow, who was suspected of killing her own husband by pushing him off a cliff.

“Decision to Leave” is not a regular romance

“Decision to Leave” is about a woman, a man, and their relationship, but it is far from being the regular romantic tale. 

Talking about his latest project, director Park Chan Wook shared: “To avoid empty messages, I stack up various layers for my movie. After Hae Joon moves to the seaside, where his wife works at a nuclear plant, things start to get wild and unpredictable. The emotions Seo Rae feels towards the policeman will also clear up during the later half of the film.

The director also discussed his aim to create original characters that stray away from clichés, saying: “The male lead is a police, but he’s not a regular police. He’s tidy and organized, and would always carry his personal belongings in his tailor clothes with 12 jacket pockets and 6 pants pockets. Meanwhile, the female lead is a murder suspect with a righteous demeanot and straightforward attitude.” 

The tension between the two main characters is also carefully portrayed, with Park Chan Wook opting not to go for sensuality. 

I want to make something elegant in the traditional sense, where each character has deep inner emotions yet appear all calm and peaceful on the outside. My story is all about a romance between adults, who have adult issues to deal with. After all, the more mature we become, the harder it gets to express our feelings, since we have grown used to keeping it in due to the specific circumstances and conditions that we experienced,” the director explained.

Tang Wei and Park Hae Il were selected before the script was even done

I had a meeting with Tang Wei and offered her the role before I even finished the script”, Park Chan Wook said. “I then reflected the personality traits that I observed from her, and reflected them in my script. I also did the same to Park Hae Il.”

During an interview with Korea Times, the director also praised Tang Wei’s dedication to learn Japanese despite being from China. 

She’s pretty stubborn, slowly learning Korean to understand each part and tone of her lines. She doesn’t stop at learning the script by heart, but rather puts herself in it and immerse in the meanings”, said Park Chan Wook. 

The chemistry between Tang Wei and Park Hae Il in “Decision to Leave” was extremely slow burn. Via the work, the male lead Hae Jun got his morals torn between his responsibilities as an inspector and the intense feelings rooted from his heart. Meanwhile, Tang Wei’s character remains a mystery until the very end. 

Decision to Leave
Director Park Chan Wook meeting Park Hae Il and Tang Wei on the set of “Decision to Leave”

Similar to other filmmakers of his generation, Park Chan Wook started out with a male-centric work, which focuses on misunderstood male characters. However, he has since leaned more towards the female perspective. 

In fact, from “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” (2005), “Thirst” (2009) to “The Handmaiden”, Park Chan Wook has been putting female characters at the center of his works, who are hilarious, violent, even threatening, while overwhelmingly complex. 

park chan wook cannes

Speaking about his change, Park Chan Wook simply said: “I don’t try too hard to create female characters. Instead, I just try to make relatable and original characters regardless of gender, age, or race.” 

Unlike the director’s other films, which are often rated R for violence or adult scenes, “Decision to Leave” is rated as PG 15. The relationship between the main characters are sexy, yet there’s no actual sex scenes, nudity, and little sensuality. Instead, their chemistry showed through simple and everyday gestures like eye contact and skin ship, like the time Hae Jun put moisturizer on Seo Rae’s hand. The movie is apparently sensual enough with its color grading and music.  

“People have been calling it a sexy movie without the sexy. Personally, I think they finds ‘sexiness’ from the relationship between the characters, their hearts, feelings, and the intrinsic nature of this movie,” director Park Chan Wook concluded. 

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