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‘Host’ Captures

2006/07/05 Source

Unique Monster Movie Deals With Family and Current Issues

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

Director Bong Joon-ho's new film The Host was unveiled here on Tuesday.

The most anticipated film of the year, it received highly positive reviews from news media and critics, who described it as Bong's most successful film yet.

"I've been under pressure due to the high expectations about the film. But of course, happy pressure", Bong said Tuesday during a news conference after the preview screening at Megabox multiplex theater in Samsong-dong, southern Seoul. "I'd been thinking about how to change some parts to make the film better before I got here".

The film, which opens here on July 27, is a story about an ordinary family that fights a mutant rising out of the Han River.

Bong recalled it was first conceived 19 years ago when he saw a mysterious creature crawling on the Chamsil Bridge when he was a high school student and decided to make a film about it.

He began to prepare for the film five years ago, and started to write a script three years ago. Now the 14 billion won project has finally been made into a film.

Bong emphasized that his foremost dream was to make a different kind of sci-fi film.

"My goal was to make a film featuring a monster, but a kind of sci-fi film which no one has ever seen before. I thought ordinary people should fight the monster, rather than heroic soldiers, biologists, or smart journalists", Bong said.

The outcome is quite satisfying and lives up to the high expectations people had of it. The film premiered at the Director's Fortnight at the 59th Cannes Film Festival, receiving favorable response from the critics there, although its sound and graphics were not fully completed.

The positive reviews here are attributed to the film's superb computer graphics blended into the original story.

Most local sci-fi films have been commercial flops as they lacked the technology to realistically render a futuristic world or monster, or were simply poor imitations of Hollywood blockbuster films with flimsy stories.

To produce a realistic monster, Bong worked with the staff from the "Harry Potter" series and "The Lord of Rings" trilogy to create one with Korean touches.

The monster in The Host is a mutant as big as an elephant, resembling a fish yet with legs. The monster is amphibian with a long tail that can grasp people. Its dreadful, multi-layered mouth can swallow and spit out a grown man.

"It took a year to produce the current monster used in the film. I asked computer graphics staff to create a monster well matched with Korean actors and their environment. About 1,500 different monsters were created, and we only chose one", Bong said.

The monster is realistically portrayed, but it doesn't overshadow the story, and the film is more focused on the people fighting it as the director intended.

The film focuses on a family that struggles to save their daughter taken by the mutant. But it also tackles current-day controversial issues.

"While the family fights the monster, they face challenges without receiving any help, and it naturally deals with social and political problems and shows satirical aspects of the United States' wrongdoings", Bong said.

In the film, a high-ranking U.S. officer oversees the illegal dumping of toxic chemicals into the Han River, an incident based on a real accident in 2000. In the movie, American scientists claimed the mutant was spreading a deadly virus, hinting at the U.S'.s false accusation that Iraq possessed biological weapons, a claim that the U.S. used in part to justify its invasion of Iraq.

The film can be understood in many different ways, but the strongest theme is the struggle of an ordinary family, Bong added.

Another strength of the film is its cast of veteran actors, who teamed up again with the director after working in previous movies with him.

Song Kang-ho and Park Hae-il from Bong's second feature film "Memories of Murder" (Sarinui Chuok) in 2003 and Bae Doona and Byun Hee-bong from his debut film "Barking Dogs Never Bite" (Pullandasui Kae) in 2000 joined the film.

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