The Tiger is a film set in 1925 Korea while it is under Japanese occupation. The Government official in charge of this particular area orders that the last remaining tiger is killed. The film uses tigers as a representation of the degeneration of humanity, and the corruption and greed that follows its absence. Simply put: When something becomes so important to you that it devolves into an unhealthy obsession, it is likely that your sense of morality will decline as nothing else in the world will matter to you.
The Degradation of Humanity
In the film, there are two characters who are polar opposites to each other. Our main character Chun Man-Duk is a hunter who lost his wife in the search for this infamous tiger, otherwise known as the Mountain Lord. Instead of taking it out on the tiger, he realized that the only purpose a tiger has in life is to kill. To expect that it would be capable of anything else would be naive, so he had no reason to hate, as there was no particular interest to attack his family. He grieved over her death, learned from his ignorance, and moved on.
Gu-kyung is an entirely different beast. He has been a hunter all his life, but we don’t learn till later that his moral compass has always been in the dark even before he met the Mountain Lord. Early in Chun-man-duk’s hunting career, he kills a female tiger, unbeknownst to him that she was a mother of two cubs. Gu-kyung insists that they should kill the cubs too, but Chun-man-duk stops him, implying that even as a hunter there are boundaries that aren’t meant to be crossed.
We learn later that one of these cubs grew up to become the Mountain Lord, and even after having his mother being torn away from him at a young age, he doesn’t hold any grudges against the man who killed her. The film uses the relationship between these three characters to tell the story.
Hatred Birthed from Obsession
The same day that Chun-man-duk’s wife was killed, Gu-kyung was there hunting with him. Gu-kyung never learned from his mistakes that day, even after dozens of men were killed in front of his eyes.
Gu-kyung was already obsessed with his career of hunting tigers. When something becomes this integral to your personal mission, nothing else will matter to you. When the Mountain Lord attacked him and killed many of his colleagues his moral compass was already in the dark, so he didn’t have the emotional intelligence necessary to realize that it wasn’t the tiger’s fault. He took the attack as a personal vendetta against his character. Gu-kyung obtains a massive scar across his face as a result of this attack, a reflection of his inability to grow even when the answer is imprinted directly on his face.
Gu-kyung’s actions throughout the rest of the film become eviler and eviler as time goes on. From his perspective, killing this tiger that wronged him is so important to him that he has become self-aware of his actions. He knows that his wrongdoings will end up getting other people killed and will only cause more tragedy. He uses troops that the Governor provides to him as bait so he can enact his plan. Even when his plans go south, he still insists that the tiger be killed.
Perhaps Gu-kyung’s darkest moment is when he persuades Seok, Chun-man-duk’s son to join the hunt. In actuality, he only wants Seok present so that Chun-man-duk follows out of fear for his son’s safety, so that he may join the hunt as well, as he knows where the tiger’s trails are located.
When the tiger starts taking lives at the scene, Seok watches in horror. After he is inevitably torn to shreds, he begs for his life at the mercy of Gu-kyung. The Mountain Lord’s death is so important to Gu-kyung, that he leaves Seok behind while he searches for the tiger, only for Seok to be taken away and eaten by wolves who are attracted to the rancid corpses.
We can see how far this quest for revenge has taken Gu-kyung. His right-hand man is always by his side and constantly challenges his decisions out of the concern for his best friend, hoping that he may be able to dissuade him from the path of darkness. Unfortunately, even with this man at Gu-kyung’s side, he is unable to understand the value of friendship because he can’t fathom wasting any time that isn’t used to find and kill the Mountain Lord.
For Gu-kyung, his grudge against the Mountain Lord got him killed, as his hatred made him blind to his lack of success and his lack of understanding for the Mountain Lord’s superior wit and hunting prowess.
Examples of Obsession Today
In my own experience, I was involved in a similar, but much less brutal situation. I was in a relationship with this woman I was knees-deep in love with. Deep down, I knew the relationship was going to end eventually, but I was too blind to understand that it was my obsession for this person that pushed me away from her more than anything.
It was such a priority to me that we should stay together, that as a result, I no longer cared about how she was feeling, and the only thing left that mattered to me was the label of being in a relationship. I didn’t want to be alone, because I had a tendency of attaching to people in the hopes that this person could fix the problems that were deep in my subconscious. Eventually, I became so obsessed, that I would single out any of her male friends that got “too close”, and would forbid her from even laying eyes on them.
It had become such an issue that a deep hatred had arisen for one of these men as a consequence of my obsession with this relationship. I hated this person so much that I wouldn’t even entertain the idea that other people may be hurting as a result of my actions. By the time I realized what I had done, it was years later, far too late to do anything about it.
Another example that can be seen today, is racism. Sometimes, when someone from an ethnicity is being continuously discriminated against, they will become so obsessed with the notion of defending his/her race, only to have an inner hatred grow inside them aimed at individuals labeled as “oppressors”. Of course, this cycle of hypocrisy happens all the time. Sometimes, people can be so enthralled with hatred that nothing else will matter to them, and they will start to label simple misunderstandings and mistakes as an attack on their ethnicity.
We can see similar examples today in the Black Lives Matter movement, where people have become so engrossed in the movement that they lose the self-awareness required to see through their hypocrisy when they start rioting and discriminating against other races. This only makes the problem worse and doesn’t help the people practicing legitimate protests to raise awareness of racism.
Examples like these, unfortunately, occur as a result of a lack of self-awareness and self-confidence. Some people don’t have the motivation, nor do they know any self-love practices to help them reach their self-actualization process. As a result, they may resort to relying on external sources to help them feel fulfilled. By standing behind a movement, it gives them the illusion that they’re doing something productive and working towards a goal. Subsequently, they will lose any sense of uniqueness. In these types of situations, since they’re relying on an outside source for the fulfillment, they aren’t providing themselves that sense of achievement so they lose their personality’s “signature”.
To them, it doesn’t matter if the feeling is artificial. As a person who’s been in a similar situation where I relied on an outside source (a partner) for gratification, losing that gratification meant that I would have to provide myself that gratification. In the Hierarchy of Needs, basic essentials like food and water are at the bottom, whereas more complex needs like love, affection, and the self-actualization process are near the top. The danger here is that if you’re not equipped to provide these needs to your brain by yourself, the brain will look elsewhere to find a substitute. The brain needs these essentials to stay healthy, so if you don’t provide yourself these things, you will likely develop dependency issues.
The Domino Effect
When an obsession becomes powerful enough like in Gu-kyung, it can bring the evil out of others and create a chain reaction.
To help bring the Mountain Lord out of hiding, Gu-kyung kills his mate and his cubs and uses his deceased cubs as bait to lure the Mountain Lord out of his den.
After he has had everything taken away from him, the Mountain Lord has nothing left to lose and goes on a killing spree when he finally comes face to face with the troops sent to track him. Of course, this is out of no fault of his own, as the Mountain Lord would likely have been found eventually, so a confrontation like this was going to happen whether he liked it or not.
The point is, is that both the Governor and Gu-kyung’s obsessions were so strong that the Mountain Lord had no choice but to kill everyone on sight. Sometimes in life, someone’s terrible actions become such a problem that it will become mandatory for the recipient to do terrible things, whether it be for their survival, or out of self-respect. The whole point is that it was never necessary for the Mountain Lord, or any creature for that matter to kill this many people. How complicated and evil must an obsession become for it to be necessary to take this many lives in defense?
Gu-kyung even persuades the Governor to hire artillery troops to use dynamite to destroy the forest that the Mountain Lord lives in so they can flush him out of hiding. To symbolize the disrespect to the Mountain Lord’s innocence, the film shows these troops killing every animal that flees from the destruction in response to all the racket. As if it were a chopping block, the deer who flee from the destruction are immediately killed as they are shot one by one. These deer have no way of escaping or defending themselves and are killed for perceivably no reason.
When these troops come face to face with the Mountain Lord they arrange a shooting formation as one final attempt to end his life. These troops have a clear shot at the tiger, but all of the shots miss. This is a symbolization of their blindness to what their hatred has done to their judgment. In this final confrontation, Gu-kyung meets his end. His hatred brewed to a boiling point and become so substantial that it was the reason behind his demise.
In one of the final scenes in the film, the Mountain Lord and Chun-man-duk meet one last time before their final showdown. They both understand that this cycle of hatred is only going to stop when they’re both dead. The Governor is too blind to understand that tigers are necessary for the food chain to stop wolves and deer from overpopulating.
If the Mountain Lord is killed, Chun-man-duk will continue to be affected as he will likely be forced again to assist in the Governor’s hatred-fueled endeavors. If both of them are killed, even if the hatred continues they will both be dead, so neither of them will have the pleasure of witnessing any more of mankind’s discrepancies, nor will they have any more of what little they have left taken from them.
After they are both killed, we see flashbacks of their lives before the Japanese occupation. Chun-man-duk’s wife is pregnant and they are happily married, and the Mountain Lord is still a cub enjoying his time with his mother. Obsession and hatred don’t help anyone and they don’t add to the enjoy-ability of life. Now that the two are dead, they can finally live in the afterlife in peace.
In summary, obsession is a human issue that will remain prevalent until the demise of the human race. The only thing we can do to combat it is to respond with kindness and peacefulness. The brain will only remain hostile if the opposition is remained labeled as a threat. If the opposition takes a peaceful response, then it may serve as a wake-up call for the person in question. If their hatred continues to be aimed at someone who’s actions display their innocence, the situation may bring out their humanity and help them on the path to understanding. This film perfectly encapsulates the dangers of obsession, and what it can do to impact someone’s judgment, in turn encouraging them to do horrible things. If you particularly enjoy this type of content, consider subscribing to my mailing list so you never miss another blog post.