For 36 days straight, we’ll be exploring the famous 36 Dramatic Situations by examining a film that exemplifies each one. From family killing family to prisoners in need of asylum, we brush off the 19th century list in order to remember that it’s still incredibly relevant today.
Whether you’re seeking a degree in Literature, love movies, or just love seeing things explode, our feature should have something for everyone. If it doesn’t, please don’t whore us at the mercy of a ruthless serial killer.
Part 3 of the 36-part series takes a look at “Abduction” with the Korean thriller The Chaser.
A former detective turned street pimp is having a problem with a number of his girls going missing. He gets a call for companionship services one night and sends one of his last remaining working girls, and later notices that the person who requested the service is the last person to have seen the others. He gets fearful that the girl he just sent may be in serious danger and goes looking for her. In an event of good fortune he actually finds the kidnapper, catches him and takes him in, at which point the man confesses to having murdered the other women and states the other girl may still be alive. Despite the confession the police have no hard evidence to keep him detained for more than twelve hours. It then becomes a race against the clock for the hero to find the girl he sent over that night and save her from the inevitable return of the killer if the police cannot find the bodies of the missing girls to convict their new detainee.
“Abduction” – This situation requires the presence of an Abductor, an Abducted, and a Guardian. It’s a relatively cut-and-dry situation in which someone is taken, with or without their consent, and the abductor is set to protect their captive from the one in pursuit of reclamation.
The abductor, the abducted, and the guardian are easily identifiable in this debut picture from Hong-jin Na. The prostitute is the abducted, the pimp (former detective) her guardian, and the killer her captor. It’s a classic story of a woman taken against her will and the man who must find her before it’s too late. It isn’t often a prostitute that we care about, nor a pimp that we root for, but when the abductor is a cold-blooded killer he would have to capture someone exceptionally abysmal for us not to sympathize with the innocent abducted. It’s a good example of portraying what people do for a living doesn’t always negatively affect our willingness to commiserate.
The Chaser represents one of the most oft-used depictions of the abduction situation (a woman taken without her consent), but switches the main conflict for the majority of the picture from finding the killer to fighting against time. The killer is found and captured rather early on in the film, but because he was arrested in separation from the location of the recent captive and the prior victims the focal point of the story becomes strictly in finding the missing girl before the killer has to be legally released.
This situation can sometimes also be in close correlation with another, “the enigma”, in which case the puzzle and solving it becomes the highpoint for the audience in a way that they feel compelled to solve the mystery themselves. In The Chaser there’s no puzzle for us to solve, only a hero for us to cheer on in the hopes that he can solve it before time runs out, and therefore our investment is less on plot and more on character. For once, a serial killer film recognizes that we don’t always want to be preoccupied with uncovering the identity. Sometimes, we clamor for the hero to save the distressed damsel – even if she does have sex for money and he most likely takes it from her regularly.
Bonus Examples: Troy, Commando, Breakdown
Click here to read all of our 36 Films, 36 Dramatic Situations entries
Supplication – The Most Dangerous Game
Deliverance – The Rescuers
Crime Pursued By Vengeance – Death Wish
Vengeance Taken For Kindred Upon Kindred – The Lion King
Pursuit – Silence of the Lambs
Disaster – Airplane!
Falling Prey to Cruelty/Misfortune – Misery
Revolt – Lucky Number Slevin
Daring Enterprise – The Professionals
Abduction – The Chaser
The Enigma – Se7en
Obtaining – There Will Be Blood
Enmity of Kin – Once Were Warriors
Rivalry of Kin – Grumpy Old Men
Murderous Adultery – Match Point
Madness – Grizzly Man
Fatal Imprudence – The Fly
Involuntary Crimes of Love – Oldboy
Slaying of Kin Unrecognized – Halloween
Self-sacrifice for an Ideal – Hunger
Self-sacrifice for Kin – Harakiri
All Sacrificed for Passion – A Single Man
Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones – The Seventh Continent
Rivalry of Superior vs Inferior – Toy Story
Adultery – In the Mood For Love
Crimes of Love – Dog Day Afternoon
Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One – Festen
Obstacles to Love – I Love You Phillip Morris
An Enemy Loved – Underworld
Ambition – Wall Street
Conflict With a God – The Truman Show
Mistaken Jealousy – My Best Friend’s Wedding
Erroneous Judgment – The Contender
Remorse – In Bruges
Recovery of a Lost One – Gone Baby Gone
Loss of Loved Ones – Dear Zachary