Concrete Utopia Movie Chaos Discussed and Dissected

Concrete Utopia Movie Chaos Discussed and Dissected
Reader Rating0 Votes

Concrete Utopia Movie Chaos Discussed and Dissected. This movie is the most literal morality play, mythic Greek tragedy, sort of fable I’ve ever seen. And I’m going to be really honest here – I really think that I’m not going to understand the most literal details of this problem. AKA – a Seoul based housing crisis. But at the same time, I think that is a universal problem and question. So if you haven’t seen this movie yet – please go check it out before you go any further. As of this publication date, I believe it is only available in theaters, but should be coming to a digital release soon enough.

Key Characters of the Imperial Palace:

  • Lee Byung-hun as Yeong-tak (room 902) – Interim resident leader of Imperial Palace Apartments.
  • Park Seo-joon as Min-sung (room 602) – leader’s assistant.
  • Park Bo-young as Myeong-hwa (room 602) – Min-sung’s wife, who is a nurse with a warm personality and strength. She calmly cares for the injured even in extreme situations.
  • Kim Sun-young as Geum-ae (room 1207) – President of the women’s association of Imperial Palace Apartments
  • Park Ji-hu as Hye-won (room 903) – A high school student survivor
  • Kim Do-yoon [ko] as Do-gyun (room 809)

Concrete Utopia Overview

The city of Seoul is hit by an earthquake tsunami of sorts… the earthquake demolishes everything in the city, save for on apartment building, The Imperial Palace. Inside the apartment building is life. (Heat, electricity, plumbing? Everything still works.) Outside? Death. Freezing temperatures, inhospitable situations, no water, no food, you will die if you stay outside. (Yes, it’s obviously a metaphor. We get that.)

As those that are trapped without housing begin to realize their situation, they begin heading in the direction of the apartment building in search of a chance for life. The residents of the apartment choose to band together in order to unify their response to the threat from the outside, and they have selected a new leader named Yeong-tak. Yeong-tak helps them define the new rules for all the residents, and the way that they will prevent outsiders from getting into the building and threatening their existence. And because of that, the residents remain alive. Regardless, as the residents start to arm together, create a group of scroungers to collect food, and also kill those people they run across, they become more and more culpable. But there is a question that lingers – are they killing the city residents, and feeding their meat to the residents. Could it be that food is so lacking, and in such high demands, that they really have turned cannibalistic? They become more and more evil all towards the betterment of the community, and their apartment complex’s survival. At first it was sins of omission. Then it became more and more overt sins of commission. From forcing locals in the area into starvation by taking their food sources to actually killing them in order to get their stores.

Then comes Hye-won… a high school student that lived in unit 903, next door to Yeong-tak. And through her we start to learn that Yeong-tak isn’t exactly who he says he is. Worse, not only is he an imposter – non-resident – but he might even be a murderer. Is their society built on a lie? Then, one day, she breaks into his apartment while he is out leading a raid, and he finds the original tenet dead… and the grandmother, still barely alive and begging for food. And the raid, lead by Yeong-tak, did not go well at all, several residents died. Well, when the raiding party returned, Yeong-tak is confronted and he ends up killing Hye-won.

At that same moment, the apartment complex’s walls are breached, and the locals come for their vengeance. The residents and the non-residents battle throughout the lobby, hallways, and stairs. Numerous people die. Yeong-tak claws his way back to “his” apartment, only to watch as its overrun by non-residents.

Meanwhile, Min-sung and Myeong-hwa flee. They are an interesting couple through which the entirety of the movie is narrated. Min-Sung chose to pledge allegiance to Yeong-tak as he became a security member for the community. And Min-Sung used her nursing skills to help others. Min-sung slid down into the mire of murder, and a dark myopic viewpoint. Myeong-hwa helped to uncover Yeong-tak as a insidious murderer… but ultimately none of it mattered as they were all culpable of terrible evil as they pursued selfish goals. As the movie ends we watch as Myeong-hwa mourns the death of Min-Sung.

“Am I just allowed to live?”
“Why ask us that? If you’re alive, then live.”
“Tell us, there were rumors that the people in that apartment complex killed and ate other people, is that true?”
“No, they were ordinary people.”

What is Concrete Utopia Really About

Great question dear reader. I have a nagging curious question that it is harshly specific to the area of Seoul and Korea in general and the lack of housing throughout the city. I’ve only been to Seoul once, but from what I remember there was nothing but vertical housing EVERYWHERE. But, what would I know? It does seem like the literal interpretation is that the film has a very real statement to be said about housing and the kill or be killed sort of environment of the Seoul real estate community there in South Korea. But I literally have no idea on that front. City by city that sort of conversation could be had. Even if that were what the movie were saying……. okay? Rent control!!! GARRRRHHHH. Lame. Not the most exciting of movie topics really.

But if it were to flip the conversation to more of a life raft of a conversation. You know… that old Philosophy 101 conversation about who you allow into your life raft. How do you make the decision? Pregnant woman? Check. Nun who helped children throughout her life? Check. Sailor who could keep the boat going and pointed correctly? Okay. You know, that sort of equation, person by person. (Basically the movie Circle if you haven’t seen it. It’s a very modern version of that philosophy equation.) This movie doesn’t do that though – not even a little bit. They basically take the opposite approach. We only allow those in who were residents in the apartment complex. Not, who should be here… but who has a deed to a dwelling? Sort of seems like how we are treating Mexicans coming through our southern border. Have they a green card, or a passport? Nope? OUT!

I think a better life lesson to take from this particular film would be to watch how quickly humans devolve to a feral survival quality when pushed. The apartment has something no one else in the city (world?) has. A dwelling. But even so, the residents become insane attempting to keep it and protect it. The lost sight of their humanity right at the outset. Even worse, they probably devolved into cannibals – the entire lot of them. Instead of supporting one another, and trying to see how many they could reasonably support at the apartment, they setup brigades to protect it. Instead of scanning the perimeter for people they could save, and provide medical support to, they steal, rob, and murder. And we know this entirely exceptional because look at what happens to Myeong-hwa when a few survivors invite her to join their group. She presumes they are going to kill her. Instead they offer her food, and guide her through the city and help her after her loss.

I thought that the movie Concrete Utopia was an interesting concept. The sets, the backgrounds, the CGI was all done reasonably well for what it was. The concept was intriguing. And the acting (if a bit over the top) was decent enough. I liked the subtleties of the question about their cannibalism to be an interesting question. Did they? Maybe, I don’t know. Probably, right? And yet, a bit of a preposterous movie idea. (I did have a very good friend buried under a hotel for 3 days in the Haiti earthquake, so it isn’t sooo far fetched.)

It had me thinking about man’s inhumanity to man and the awfulness with how we protect our own stuff without really considering what actually matters.