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I have a couple of questions about the ending of the horribly disturbing Oldboy (2003).

Why does the antagonist "Puppet Master" kill himself in the elevator?

Was he so consumed by revenge that he had nothing left after he carried out his purpose? The realization that after all he had done to exact revenge, it didn't ease the pain of his first (and most likely only) love dying?

I can kind of understand those but it seems a bit single-minded of him and/or simple, maybe.

Also, did the final hypnosis work on the protagonist? Or does he still know that she is his daughter?

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9 Answers 9

up vote 7 down vote accepted

To the first question: He realized, he killed his sister (and lover). He had imagined, that she did kill herself, after the bad mouth from the others (including Oh Dae-su, that's why the revenge). But in the process, he (I can't remember his name) is reminded, that he couldn't stand the rumors, so he killed her. As this falls into place in his mind, he kills himself out of guilt.

For the second question, I didn't get that Oh was hypnotized again at the end, to forget that about Mi-do. I thought, he cut out the tongue, so that the antagonist would not tell Mi-do. If that's so with hypnosis again (I don't own the DVD, can't check), I think it should be open to interpretation for the viewer, what Oh knows at the end.

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I feel this answers my questions more. Thanks! –  Verge Dec 19 '11 at 1:28

The puppet master wanted revenge... By making the puppet fall in love and hence procreate with his own kin, he 1. Got his revenge for the puppet opening his mouth and 2. Made the puppet aware that he had fallen in love with someone that ended up being the same circumstance (if not worse).. Thus proving the fact that you should not judge others until you've lived through that's persons experiences. Since the puppet master lost everything he lived for (everything he loved), he no longer wanted to live knowing he had finally proved his point. drops mic, exits stage

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On the first question, I agree with most of what you guys are saying.

Second question:

When I watched the movie for the first time, I felt like he was asking to forget about being the father. I watched it again and I still feel like that was what he was asking the hypnotist to help him forget. He wanted to remain a lover without having to know he's in love with his daughter.

So, the hypnotist told him that he would split into 2: one, the monster, who knows that Mido is his daughter and another who will remain a lover without that burden. We assume that he walked the 70 steps and before he wakes from the hypnosis, lying in the snow, that falling to the ground could be the death of his monster and him waking free from burden of knowledge, or just a simple awakening from hypnosis.

What do I mean by a simple awakening?

If you pay attention, the hypnotist says that with each step the monster would age 1 year and die at the age of 70. This could be hypno-babble for, "walk 70 steps and you'll forget that your lover is your daughter" or you won't forget till you die at the age of 70. Personally I favor the first. It fits more with the feel of the movie since if we don't believe hypnosis works, then why do we believe that the events that took place would take place?

Everything that happened between Oh and Mido were a result of hypnosis. In order to keep their lover relationship going on, Oh went through more hypnosis.

It's all in the smile/cry, I agree.

We can't really pull anything from the smile/cry. Obviously, it can go both ways. It's a smile and a cry. So were the tears of joy that went with the bliss that accompanies ignorance. We may never know. But, the movie quotes a poem a few times, Solitude by Ella Wheeler. The line they chose was "laugh and the world laughs with you, weep, and you weep alone".

Oh will be happy with Mido but the burden of knowledge is carried alone.

Maybe. Hahaha.

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@coleopterist - I agree, I don't know why it was deleted. It had been flagged as not an answer and a mod had apparently not read it. –  iandotkelly Nov 28 '13 at 14:47

After reading your answers it seems to make sense that he is the monster, hence why he walks away from where he sat?

But my main concern with that ending is, why did he smile then when she said she loved him? Shouldn't he be upset?

The only possible answer I can think of is that he was happy to hear her say she loved him but then realised what had happened, hence the anguish - because he does seem to cry at the end. I'm not saying you guys are wrong but this answer still doesn't convince me for some reason. I just can't get over why he would smile. I know I just gave a possible answer but it still doesn't satisfy me. For the film it seems too simplistic.

Here's another possible theory that I want to put forward. We do not actually know what he asked of the hypnotist. Could it be that he actually wanted the 'father' side of him erased? Maybe he actually couldn't let go of her as a lover so in the end he decided he wanted to be with her and so had the part where he knows it's his daughter removed. Hence why when she tells him she loves him, he smiles.

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You all have not noticed one major clue in the movie. Who gave the name of the psychiatrist to OH??? It was the guy himself. He knew that OH will go to her. And if he can buy a hand from the jail owner, Dont you think he can buy her too? That's where his revenge finishes. He makes sure that OH lives with the burden of knowing what he has done with his daughter for the rest of his life.

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Just my thought on the end - I would say the suggestion is that the hypnosis didn't work. Because in the hypnosis sequence "the monster" walked away and he woke up having walked from where he sat at the chairs, ie he's the monster with the memory.

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Steve hit the nail on the head......that was exactly what I took away from the ending. That's why the director showed us the tracks in the snow. To let the viewer know that we were left with the one that walked away....aka "The Monster" –  user5403 Jul 12 '13 at 21:52

As for the antagonist, like the person before said; he had had his revenge.

As for the protagonist, it's all in the smile. Only was he a monster when he smiled. The fact that he smiled at the end meant he still knew.

That's my take.

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The Antagonist, obviously was not a normal person and he did not lead a normal life as is evident from the incestuous relationship he had with his sister. Apparently he was extremely attached to his sister and her death (suicide) left a deep impression on him. That's why revenge became the only motive in his life & it is also seen that he is still pretty much emerged in the memories of his sister & may be he felt like there was nothing n his life without her. So he wanted to die from the very beginning, but not before he has had his revenge.

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Following the pattern that is oh so common in asian mediums (manga, anime and movies), yes, the puppetmaster only wanted revenge, and after he had his revenge, he could die in peace. Revenge was the only thing he was after. That is why he could kill himself, but why he actually did it, was to find peace.

So I know it sounds single/minded of him as you said, but that is the nature of most protagonists of (mainly) japanese stories in the popular mediums.

As for the final hypnosis, without being certain, I'd say it didn't work, however it's been a while since I watched the film, so I'm not sure.

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This is the start of a great answer; could you add some more to it to include elements of the film that lead you to why you came to the conclusions you did? Adding references to support your claim of revenge being the sole character motivation in a lot of Asian media would be good, too. –  Laura Dec 14 '11 at 16:55

protected by Napoleon Wilson Nov 28 '13 at 13:08

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