Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)

August 29, 2003 • Film, Reviews

[director Bong Joon-ho]

Wonderful, sweet, free-form narrative and a wickedly black sense of humor collide quite surprisingly well in this movie. It’s an unusual treat, beautiful but quirky as all hell, actress Bae Doo-na creates what should be an iconic character, as spunky and righteous as she is scatterbrained and un-savvy.

Lee Sung-jae plays a college lecturer fighting desperately for a professorship. But the barking of a diminuitive dog in his apartment complex drives him up the wall. Eventually, he can focus on nothing besides the barking of the dog, and he tries to get rid of the small animal by kidnapping it and murdering it. He is unable to murder the dog, but the dog ends up getting killed by the insane janitor, who has a taste for boiled mutt. Meanwhile, nerdy Bae Doo-na works as an accountant in the building administration for the same apartment block. She can’t seem to spend too much time on her job, though, preferring instead to roam outside and help people in need. Her opportunity for this kind of work arrives when a little girl shows up with missing dog fliers–fliers for the same dog the lecturer kidnapped.

For fans of the incredible Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, this is the closest anyone has yet come to capturing his unique vision of the holistic interconnectedness of people. Strange, for Barking Dogs is not based on any Murakami writing, but on an original screenplay by the director. Still, the film perfectly espouses the idea of vaguely-related events intersecting in significant, yet unforseen, ways. The film is unexpected and inventive, constantly manipulating our sympathies and then surprising us with the outcome of each plot twist.

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