Opinion: Park Chan Wook’s new movie isn’t afraid to have smartphones front and center, and it’s the high-tech update we’ve been waiting for.
After more than a century of seeing our heroes immortalized on celluloid, there are certain things that seem inherently cinematic. The smoke of a cigarette or the screeching tires of a sports car fit on the big screen quite easily, but sometimes it seems like a staple we use every day seems oddly resistant to these spells.
Although we use our smartphones all the time – even to watch movies on – I’ve found that directors often seem a little reluctant to feature this technology as prominently in their films as you see it in real life.
There could be several different reasons for this. For one thing, filmmakers may not want to see their films quickly relegated to being a mere product of their time, in the same way we now see the likes of weird call-answering hoaxes in dated sitcoms in the ’90s. They may be recent at the moment, but who knows how long it will last until they are seen as irreparable.
On the other hand, it’s hard to make a character staring at a steady, devoid of black slab look like a seductress on the silver screen. Most often, after all, we go to the cinema in order to escape from reality and enjoy visually, and it is difficult to repeat this even with the latest and brightest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy.
Finally, smartphones are likely to simply reduce the plot possibilities of the characters in the movie. How many times have you watched a TV series while impatiently wanting to yell at the character in danger to tell them to call someone on their phone, search for an important piece of information, or find their location on a map? It takes a talented writer to overcome these hurdles, given that such a simple solution was never within reach in previous decades.
That’s why, after I recently watched Park Chan Wook’s Decision to leaveI’m so buoyed by his smartphone photography in this movie that the technology almost becomes a character in itself.
Without giving away too much about the plot, smartphones always take center stage in this Hitchockian detective drama. They are used to make calls and write messages, record audio and video, perform language translation, map locations, and even keep track of daily step counts, without having to be presented illogically; Here they are actually helping the plotter plot rather than hindering it. They intertwine seamlessly so you never feel out of place, and are always essential to the twists of the story, but only as a way to reverse the characters themselves.
The devices may be in the middle of the screen, puzzling out of the shot, or we may be looking through the viewpoint of the screen where a hesitant SMS is generated, but they’ve never been used as mere lifeless props, and I think this holds the key to Park’s success; Embracing smartphones as a part of life, other directors have totally written it in the hope that we wouldn’t even notice.
Not everyone is as talented as big boy Director of course, which is not an easy trick to succeed. What’s more, as previously acknowledged, we may in the future see films like this one as hopelessly old fashioned, when the smartphone is no longer the carrier of much of our lives, and instead we spend our hours away in the Metaverse or – God forbid – disbeliever.
There may be a time when the presence of a smartphone will instantly date a movie back to the early 2000s, but even if that’s the case, I think the plot and the agonizing romance Decision to leave It will remain a movie for the ages.