Barking Dogs Never Bite

Film, 2000

When I get to the end of one of these movies, where we follow around humble characters for a series of occasionally amusing incidents that only loosely resembles a traditional narrative, I often wonder “Why?”, even if I enjoyed it. But not at the end of this one. Here, I marveled at how fully Bong Joon-ho and his actors were able to realize their dull characters. It’s almost as if they chose character types they thought would be hardest for them to pull off, just so they could show how hard they could nail it. Films are made by ambitious, driven people, and the characters that populate them often are as well. It seems rare to see average people depicted so humanely and intricately. This is especially true of Bae Doona, the female lead. If I hadn’t seen her play starkly different roles in other films I would swear she wasn’t acting here at all, and they had just shoved some snot-nosed, empty-headed person they found on the street in front of a camera. When you look into her eyes you don’t see the actor, you don’t see her character, you just see a person. This may be true of some of the other actors as well, but with Bae she’s also so much fun to watch. And maybe that’s not fair and it’s because she’s adorable, but then again, in this case, that should be a hindrance. Which she handily shrugs off.

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