While Bok-nam’s kindness is evident, she is relentlessly abused by almost everyone on this island. Mudo’s remoteness is reflected in its oppression and the outdated gender expectations of its residents. Every day, Bok-nam is physically and sexually abused by her husband and brother-in-law, and berated by the women of the island for not being a devoted and loyal wife to her husband. Bok-nam’s only respite is his center of the world: his school-aged daughter, Yeon-hee. One day, she dreams of escaping to Seoul to seize opportunities for Yeon-hee, just like she thinks Hae-won did.
Considering Hae-won not just a loyal friend but a savior, Bok-nam enlists her friend’s help to get off the island. However, she is fired by Hae-won, which leads to Bok-nam suffering an excruciating loss. Hae-won is then given another opportunity to intervene in a developing tragedy, but refuses to commit due to pressure from the villagers and tries to leave the island without a word to Bok-nam, not wanting deal with the consequences. This chain of events triggers Bok-nam’s decision to take matters into his own hands, as the film morphs into more Western ideas of horror and bloody, bloody revenge.
Hae-won is a character who embodies the phrase “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. She is apathetic to suffering and chooses to turn a blind eye to those in great pain. Essentially, it’s meant to symbolize the urban apathy usually associated with big cities like Seoul or New York. Cheol-soo deliberately presents Mudo Island as a scenic vacation destination with a small but intimate community. This assumption and our knowledge that Hae-won was seeking respite from his hectic life in Seoul leads us to assume that Mudo will be a paradise. The gradual revelation of Bok-nam’s everyday horror on the island creates a strong contrast to the beautiful surroundings.
In the film’s most pivotal scene, Hae-won witnesses the full brunt of Bok-nam’s abuse, but when the police arrive, she lies and claims she was sleeping and therefore did not witness what happened. happened. At this time, Bok-nam lost a close friend and savior who she believed would save her from her suffering on the island. It is this loss that drives Bok-nam mad and begins to slaughter the islanders. The extreme nature of his treatment, even by other women, is one of the reasons why Hae-won’s indifference is so disturbing and frightening. It is difficult to conceive that someone could be so insensitive. It is only after Bok-nam slaughters most of the island’s inhabitants that Hae-won begins to actively intervene in crises.
Often in media we see the consequences of a character’s action, but rarely do we see a film explore so thoroughly the repercussions of inaction. But we see that what makes individuals inhuman is not just the amount of cruelty we are capable of, but also the extent to which we are willing to turn a blind eye to that cruelty.
At the end of the film, when Hae-won realizes the consequences of her inaction following Bok-nam’s massacre and death, she identifies the perpetrators of the violent assault and murder we witnessed at the beginning of Tormented. She returns home and reads the unopened letters sent by Bok-nam asking for help. After reading each one, she places one to the side and stares dejectedly at the ceiling. As she lies on the ground, the image passes outside of the island, now completely uninhabited.