★★★★ – “Compelling visuals, brilliant performances & smart editing.”

Barking Dogs Never Bite is written & directed by Bong Joon-ho and stars Sung-jae Lee, Bae Doo-Na, Hie-bong Byeon, Su-hee Go and Ho-jung Kim.

An idle part-time college lector is annoyed by the yapping sound of a near-by dog. He decides to take drastic action.

Bong Joon-ho is a critically-acclaimed, visionary director who has created some of cinema’s finest moments; be it cinematography, editing or storytelling, he has made a name for himself and is most definitely one to look out for. But, what kickstarted this successful career?

A little film called Puhran Dah Suh Uigeh, translated as Barking Dogs Never Bite. The question is, how good is it?

The answer; very good.

Even though the story seems unadorned, this is an incredibly intricate experience, featuring compelling visuals, brilliant performances, smart editing and the foundation of Joon-ho’s unique staging technique. He allows actors to perform with their body, eyes and hands, as a way of attracting the viewers attention, further propelling the story forward. This can be seen in the scene where the Janitor (Hie-Bong Byeon) is telling the tale of Boiler Kim in the apartment complex basement. Ensemble staging becomes a great part of Joon-ho’s films, especially in Memories of Murder, but this is where it started. The performances from Sung-jae Lee and Bae Doo-Na are satisfyingly entertaining, and although never branching out to anything more dynamic, they both complement each other well and keep the film running trippingly.

Original music by Sung-woo Jo is strangely fitting and enjoyable, being a well-developed framework that sounds simplistic yet never venturing too far as to distract the viewer.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, editing is a huge part of any film, and so should be treated with absolute care. I imagine Joon-ho had a watchful eye over Eun Soo Lee in the editing process. There are moments where it’s sharp and fast-paced and others slow and steady, it all depends on the pace and rhythm of the scene. It’s also hard to place the genre of this film, it’s sold as a dark comedy, but here and there are drops of horror/thriller themes, which really adds to the originality of this film and aids its director.

It was incredibly difficult to come by a copy of this film with English subtitles attached, so I only hope the version I watched was accurate and true to the original dialogue. However, I feel the experience would stay very much the same without any understanding of the spoken language. It’s all told through visuals and body-language which is likely why Bong Joon-ho’s work is so widely respected by most audiences.

Verdict; I truly believe that anyone studying film, or looking to work in the industry, should take a look at the work of Joon-ho, if only to gain more of an understanding of how stories can be told not just through words, but through movement and emotion. While Barking Dogs Never Bite is a simple concept, it’s captured beautifully through visuals.

Puhran Dah Suh Uigeh (Barking Dogs Never Bite) – ★★★★ (8/10)

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