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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Interview"

2013/10/05 | Permalink

Eun-seok (played by Lee Jung-jae) has a novel idea for a documentary- find random people and ask them to tell their stories about love. The basic cuteness of the various interviews very quickly starts to trend toward a discomforting fact- though Eun-seok and his team have convinced themselves this project has objective value, the mere presence of the camera alone is creating an obvious influence both in the stories being told as well as what Eun-seok is choosing to interpret from them.

Whereas most directors try to explore cynicism by painting a portrait of a bleak world, director/screenwriter Daniel H. Byun creates this feeling by making a film about the utter futility in trying to find truth through film. It's a somewhat pretentious concept, but "Interview" more than makes up for it with its intriguing blend of irony and classy film design.

The film is produced with no real production gimmicks. The music, rather than being edited into the film, instead flows from the ambience of the surrounding coffee shops and malls where the film takes place. The camerawork revels in the joys of a broad, expansive world that includes both cityscapes and simple parks. There's even a beautiful bit of interpretative dance at one point, which simultaneously feels otherworldly and genuine, thanks both to the film's quality direction and the context of realizing exactly what this dance is supposed to be representing metaphorically.

And then, we see the interviews in the documentary. With these inordinately bright, cheery talking heads waxing on nostalgically about love, it's impossible to ignore the feeling that, cute as these stories are, they're just another brand of fantasy. The central irony of "Interview" is that it exposes the supposedly objective documentary form as itself being just another extension of the projections created by filmmakers- its blend of truthiness supposedly being more real, yet when the moment comes that Eun-Seok actually sees a deep, serious emotion, the sheer shock of the authenticity causes him to lose focus.

Lead actress Shim Eun-ha is somewhat notorious for ending her career after appearing in this film, having been the most popular Korean actress of the late nineties. It's actually very easy watching "Interview" to see why- the film has an intensely critical view about what the camera does to people even in the best possible circumstances. It begs a lot of questions about the performances we put on for other people and the degree to which we're willing to let that efface our true selves- it's a potentially very humbling moment for an actress.

Or anyone involved in film, really. The challenge "Interview" poses to the collective understanding of film as being an objective art form is a substantial one. The narrative begs a lot of questions, and does so with an unmistakable style that makes the issues involved difficult to ignore. It's a fitting irony that the necessary context of film itself is the main thing preventing "Interview" from rising to the level of true art form- but it is nonetheless an intriguing piece of work well worth watching.

Review by William Schwartz

"Interview" is directed by Daniel H. Byun and features Lee Jung-jae and Shim Eun-ha.

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