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Park Chan-wook and the Weight of Expectation

2005/07/06 | Permalink | Source

A few days short of the debut of "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance", the much-hyped third and final installment of his revenge trilogy, Park Chan-wook is afraid. This prodigy of Korean film, a man with so much confidence he is often perceived as arrogant, recently told the Chosun Ilbo of the strain the "excessive" expectation the film has aroused is putting him under.

It's natural that opinions will differ about a film by any skilled director, but if people criticize you even in online comments, it feels like they are being buried. The expectations really are tremendous.

Normally, I'd be delighted and tell you that it's the kind of marketing money can't buy, but to be frank, the expectations are burdensome. And I don't read the Internet. Especially since people disappointed by 'Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance' said they would punish me.

It seems you issued a gag order to your entire staff. Nothing is known about the film other than what we've seen in the two-minute trailer.

No matter what the film, even if I do a romantic flick in the future, I don't want to release the scenario ahead of time. I will use this time to reveal some for the first time. There will be none of the reversals that you saw in 'Oldboy'. Somebody seems to be starting a rumor that Lee Young-ae disembowels someone to get revenge, but this is nonsense. We are trying not to give people false expectations. In marketing as well, we've been talked about a 'no surprise' concept.

They say you cast Lee Young-ae because she's good at seeming frail...

In her acting career, Young-ae's been at her strongest in the TV drama 'Dae Jang Geum' (A Jewel in the Palace) I can assure you that 'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance' will show her at her poorest and frailest. When the film ends, the feeling most people will have for Lee Young-ae will be pity".

This is the final film in your revenge trilogy. If "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" was cold but "Old boy" hot, what is this one?

How about cool? Perhaps this could cause misunderstandings. The film changes direction about two-thirds of the way in due to an unforseen occurance. It would be correct to say it begins coolly and ends hot. There are no extreme mood swings in the film".

Watching the trilogy, I thought perhaps it allows viewers vicariously to experience the revenge of the middle class. What do you think, personally? Is there some concrete personal or social matter you wish you could avenge?

Not now, but right before I did 'JSA - Joint Security Area', I fell into a trap. A senior of mine I liked said my film idea was stolen from him. So he plagued me in this way and that and lied to people in the film industry. I felt I wanted to kill him. But about other things, well, I enjoy many things now, so no".

Then there's this view that "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" should become the standard by which Park Chan-wook is really evaluated. They say "JSA - Joint Security Area" owed a lot to Myung Film's editing, while "Oldboy" was based on a Japanese comic book.

If 'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance' makes it, those people will say it was thanks to Lee Young-ae of 'Dae jang geum'. Of course, JSA was helped by Myung Film's outstanding production system, and it's true that the original 'Oldboy' comic book had its strong points.

Some point out that now, there are too many "Park Chan-wook"-style directors in the Korean film world. It seems there are too many directors trying at the same time to be individual as a writer and successful at the box office.

That's what a director does. But if everyone is like that in commercial films that require lots of money, it's a problem. So production companies and producers need to restrain directors. The pure production costs of 'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance' just exceeded W4 billion (US$4 million), so I'm somewhat regretful. I wish I could have kept the costs down.

For the last two to three years, all sectors of the film world except theaters themselves have been taking losses. In this kind of situation, tensions between production companies, management and stars have grown bitter. What do you think the solution is?

Frankly, it's a difficult issue. Let's try this. The best way is for production companies to stop accepting the unreasonable demands that are being made by stars and management companies. Of course, that's not easy.

They say your next film will deal with either the People's Revolutionary Party incident of 1974, where innocent people were hanged on trumped-up charges by the Park Chung-hee regime, or vampires.

I've decided to put off a film about the People's Revolutionary Party incident because of what happened with 'The President's Last Bang' [a movie based on Park Chung-hee's assassination]. I'd rather go to jail than release a film that's been cut. But once you've made it, it's also hard to refuse cuts because it's not just your film. Anyway, I'm going to make a high-definition film paid for by CJ Entertainment. It's the story of a young girl in a mental hospital who believes she's a cyborg. Its tentative title is, 'I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK'. After that, I'll do a vampire movie.

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