Old Boy and Morality

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Perspective and Moral Ambiguity In Oldboy

Conventional morality within old boy is challenged from the very beginning of the film. Epitomized by Oh-Daesu’s arrest and depiction of civil disobedience, foreshadowing the overall attitude that characters within the film feel towards both justice and “established” conventions of morality. However, the film often depicts actions of violence, injustices, and obscenities, which many, at first glance, view as immoral, but one cannot help but to feel that some of these actions seem justified. This however would depend on whose perspective you view the situation, for instance Oh-Daesu, and if one empathizes with the character. So in a sense the moral code is defined by the character’s actions and the character’s underlying justification for those actions. These actions, if interpreted as justified, would be far from a universally accepted principal; there are however, some moral philosophies in which Oh-Daesu’s actions fall under the definition of morally justifiable actions.

Oldboy is characterized by its underlying theme of revenge. Oh-Daesu is deprived of his freedom for 15 years, during which time he is completely unaware of why he is being held captive. Upon his release, he is driven to extreme ends to discovery who was responsible for his imprisonment, in order to destroy him. On his path towards revenge he hurts many, breaking bones and in some cases torturing his adversaries. For instance, with the manager of the captive facility he pulls out his teeth using a hammer. From a moral standpoint one would perceive this as immoral. However, Oh-Daesu views that for each tooth pulled the manager would “age one year,” essentially enacting retribution for the years deprived from Oh-Daesu. Thus, from his perspective he is just getting even, and Eye for and Eye in a sense. So is this Just? In the context of the film I believe it is. This rudimentary form of justice emanates throughout the entire film. With the manager...
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