This is the second movie based on tiger hunt that I watched recently, first being Pulimurugan, the Malayalam blockbuster. The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale is a Korean movie directed by Park Hoon-jung. It explores the peculiar relation between a hunter and a tiger, set against the background of Japanese occupation of Korea during 1920's.
Japanese governor posted in Korea has a fetish for tigers and takes up the extinction of Korean tigers as his mission. Aiding him are a group of Korean hunters who have trouble capturing the last tiger roaming in Mt. Jirisan. It is a gigantic beast nicknamed The Mountain Lord and is believed to be extremely powerful, cunning and intelligent. Their former leader Man-duk, who is retired from hunting after his wife's death, declines every offer to find its trail. But his teenaged son joins the hunt. As an aftermath, the relation between the tiger and the hunter is revealed.
I loved the movie for its emotional core, though keeping up the tradition of Korean movies, it has some great moments of extreme action, graphic violence and edge-of-seat suspense. The parallels between the life of the tiger and the hunter is what stands out in the movie. What made it more solid is the lack of much exposition. Man-duk doesn't speak about the tiger to anybody. Only the scenes between both protagonists are shown and it is upto us to decide what goes on in their minds and what determines their actions.
I mentioned the tiger as the protagonist in the last sentence. Though a graphical rendition, Mountain Lord stands out as a real character. It has as much, if not more screen time as the human protagonist and many times we root for it more than anybody else. It's pain and lose is portrayed in a heart touching manner and though the carnage unleashed by the beast when cornered is extremely graphic, we connect to the reason for its behaviour. The graphic team deserve a cheer for this accomplishment.
The movie unfolds very slowly, allowing us to soak in its atmosphere and ambience. Instead of just being a background for the action setup, deceptive Mt. Jirisan is made to become another important player in the game. I feel The Tiger is a movie about how the interference of society and invasion of external forces creates fissures in already fragile relationships, that is balanced on a status-quo. It's relevant!