Memories of Murder (2003)

Brief Intro

Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Memories of Murder’ (2003) is a gripping South Korean crime drama based on true events. The film follows detectives Park and Seo as they investigate a series of brutal murders in a rural town during the 1980s. The movie is renowned for its atmospheric storytelling, complex characters, and masterful use of literary devices to enhance its narrative depth and emotional impact.

Literary Devices Used in Memories of Murder

1. Irony

Movie SceneDevice Example
Detective Park falsely claims to have solved the case.Verbal Irony: His confidence is in stark contrast to the reality.
The final scene where Park looks into the camera.Situational Irony: The case remains unsolved, defying expectations.

2. Foreshadowing

Movie SceneDevice Example
Early scenes showing the women’s fear.Foreshadows the tragic events to come.
The recurring song on the radio.Hints at the connection between the song and the murders.

3. Symbolism

Movie SceneDevice Example
The constant rain during the investigation.Symbolizes the pervasive sense of doom and hopelessness.
The use of darkness in key scenes.Represents the unknown and the lurking danger.

4. Juxtaposition

Movie SceneDevice Example
The peaceful rural setting vs. the brutal crimes.Highlights the horror of the murders against an idyllic backdrop.
Detective Park’s aggressive methods vs. Seo’s methodical approach.Contrasts two different investigative styles and philosophies.

5. Motif

Movie SceneDevice Example
The repeated shots of the train.Represents the unstoppable passage of time.
The presence of masks in various scenes.Symbolizes hidden identities and the elusiveness of truth.

6. Flashback

Movie SceneDevice Example
Seo’s recollection of the fingerprint incident.Provides background and context to his character.
The flashback to the discovery of the first body.Establishes the grim tone of the investigation.

7. Metaphor

Movie SceneDevice Example
The detectives’ hunt for the killer.Metaphor for the elusive nature of truth and justice.
The decaying landscape of the town.Represents the moral decay and societal neglect.

8. Allusion

Movie SceneDevice Example
References to American crime films.Alludes to the global nature of crime and investigation.
The depiction of military presence.Alludes to South Korea’s political climate of the 1980s.

9. Personification

Movie SceneDevice Example
The rain “crying” during the murders.Personifies nature sharing in the sorrow and despair.
The train “rushing” past key moments.Personifies time moving uncontrollably forward.

10. Hyperbole

Movie SceneDevice Example
Detective Park’s exaggerated confidence in his instincts.Highlights his flawed approach to solving the case.
The portrayal of the inept police force.Exaggerates their incompetence to criticize institutional failures.

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies

Detective Park

Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyHis self-proclaimed expertise is consistently undercut by his frequent mistakes.
JuxtapositionHis violent methods are contrasted with Seo’s logical approach, highlighting his impulsiveness.

Detective Seo

Literary DeviceExplanation
FlashbackHis background in the city and methodical approach show his dedication and frustration with the case.
MetaphorRepresents the rational side of the investigation, seeking order in chaos.

Character Dynamics

The relationship between Detective Park and Detective Seo is a driving force in the narrative. Their contrasting methods and personalities create a dynamic interplay that highlights the film’s central themes of truth and justice. Park’s aggressive and often reckless behavior is a foil to Seo’s calculated and meticulous approach, underscoring the tension between intuition and rationality in the quest for answers.

Thematic Analysis


Literary DeviceExplanation
IronyThe persistent failure to solve the case despite immense effort highlights the elusive nature of justice.
MetaphorThe detectives’ fruitless chase symbolizes the often unattainable quest for justice in an imperfect world.


Literary DeviceExplanation
SymbolismThe decaying environment and neglected rural town reflect the corruption within the police force and government.
HyperboleThe exaggerated incompetence and brutality of the police force criticize systemic corruption.


Literary DeviceExplanation
ForeshadowingThe persistent rain and darkness foreshadow the bleak outcomes and pervasive sense of doom.
PersonificationNature’s “crying” rain embodies the despair felt by the community and investigators.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

Visual and Sound Techniques

Literary DeviceTechniqueExplanation
IronyCinematography: Contrast lightingHighlights the disparity between the detectives’ perceptions and the grim reality of the case.
ForeshadowingSound Design: Ominous music cuesCreates an atmosphere of impending doom, hinting at future events.
SymbolismVisual Imagery: Recurring visual motifsThe repeated use of trains and rain symbolize time and despair.
JuxtapositionEditing: Parallel scenesContrasts different characters’ approaches and settings to highlight thematic differences.

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection

Scene 1: Discovery of the First Body

YouTube Link: Discovery of the First Body
Scene Breakdown: This scene sets the grim tone for the entire film, using dark lighting and somber music to emphasize the gravity of the crime. The juxtaposition of the peaceful countryside with the violent crime introduces the central conflict.

Scene 2: Interrogation of the Suspect

YouTube Link: Interrogation of the Suspect
Scene Breakdown: This scene uses close-up shots and tense music to heighten the sense of urgency and desperation in the investigation. The verbal irony in Park’s questioning highlights his flawed methods.

Scene 3: The Final Confrontation

YouTube Link: The Final Confrontation
Scene Breakdown: The use of heavy rain and chaotic editing in this scene underscores the culmination of the detectives’ frustration and the hopelessness of their pursuit. The situational irony of the unresolved case leaves a lasting impact on the audience.


Interactive Quiz

Test Your Knowledge!

  1. What literary device is used when Detective Park’s confidence is contrasted with the reality of the investigation?
  2. Which device is represented by the recurring rain in the movie?
  3. How does the film use flashbacks in relation to Detective Seo’s character?
    • A) To highlight his background
    • B) To create tension
    • C) To introduce a new character
    • D) To show a parallel storyline


  1. B) Irony
  2. C) Symbolism
  3. A) To highlight his background