Farewell, My Lovely

The mystifying piece “Farewell, My Lovely,” composed by Jo Yeong-Wook, is perhaps the most recognizable from Park Chan-Wook’s drama film Old Boy. Each song from the original soundtrack sports a title from an older film, most of them happen to be inspired by classic film noirs. “Farewell, My Lovely” could either be a reference to the 1975 film Farewell, My Lovely, or the 1944 film Murder, My Sweet. Both seem appropriate given the tragic context of the film. Old Boy is riddled with various striking waltz compositions, but “Farewell, My Lovely” is the theme song that accompanies, and reminds the audience of, the main antagonist, Lee Woo Jin, and his appalling love story.

The piece opens at 4 seconds–just after a quote from the movie– in a typical ¾ waltz style, with a deep pizzicato bass on the first quarter notes, and valiant strings to follow the beat. Nearly silent against the bellowing strings is a gentle snare that carries the ear along, causing the listener to long for the next bass note to carry the beat along. At 10 seconds, it’s as if the light from a hanging chandelier in a stunning, yet empty, ballroom begins to fill the room with light; the violin takes the spotlight, sliding in smoothly between the now alternating notes of the bass, and the still delicately tapped snare drum.

The violin and the bass playfully push and pull at one another, testing each other’s ability to hit the highest or lowest note. At 45 seconds the violin builds in strength and volume before diverting from the usual pattern and cutting to three shorter, more rapid, notes at 58 seconds; as this moment passes, the violin slithers away to be unheard until the next measure. The original bass and strings return without the violin for a single measure before the violin echoes back in, returning to it’s original pattern, except now at 1 minute accompanied by a piano on every second and third beat.

The newly introduced piano, along with the initial few instruments continue to engage with one another playfully until the 1 minute and 40 second mark, at which point the crash of a cymbal creates an intense disposition. Each instrument carries on playing how they had before, attempting to call back to their earlier moments; however now they are playing much louder. This continues until 2 minutes and 4 seconds. Each instrument robustly pulls itself to the last note until all suddenly stop at once.

A gunshot sound effect disrupts this quick silence at 2 minutes and 5 seconds as the piece comes to an end. The next portion of this piece–which lasts around 40 seconds– is an audio clip of Lee Woo Jin humming “Farewell, My Lovely” from the beginning. Comparing these two separate takes on the same piece creates an uncomfortable ambience. The bass, violins, drums, and piano have all vanished, and have been replaced with the daunting sounds of Lee Woo Jin’s mouth opening, inhaling, and humming.