What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
― Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II
“What’s in a name,” indeed.
There are two main methods for naming characters. One is the name of significance. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet argues that names are interchangeable and do not ultimately affect the nature of what is named. This runs contrary to the method of naming for significance.
An example of this is in the 2003 film Oldboy, which I saw for the first time last week. The main character of Oldboy is named Oh Dae-su and, in an interview with director Park Chan-wook, Park stated “I named Oh Dae-su in Oldboy to remind the viewer of Oedipus. I was thinking of Greek myth or the classics.” In this case, Park deliberately uses the name to refer to the themes of incest, shame, and predestination from the myth of Oedipus. These same themes run through Oldboy, building upon one another as the film’s mysteries unfold. To me, the best part of this naming is that it is not an in-your-face reference, demanding attention from the viewer. Even as someone quite familiar with the myth of Oedipus, I did not realize the connection until I read up on the film afterwards.