This article explores the trajectory of Song Kang-ho’s on-screen performances from the
release of his fourth film, Number 3 (1997), to one of his most recent films, Thirst (2009).
As a case study, it reveals new insights about this popular and representative actor’s
numerous screen personae and how they have enabled audiences to peer into a cinematic
surface that reflects back a mixture of anti-heroism and pantomime. Beneath the
many costumes and performance styles he adopts, audiences have come to see a human
being with everyday problems and concerns. In a way reminiscent of the French pantomime
clown Pierrot, Song’s characters reflect a depth of human feeling and compassion
modulated by a comic undercurrent—the tension between these overlapping layers is
precisely what holds his various personae together.