[PIFF] Interview - Director Kim Jee-woon (Part 1)

Director Kim Jee-woon [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]

How will the year 2010 be remembered for director Kim Jee-woon? "I Saw the Devil", which went into shoot after "The Good, the Bad, the Weird", was the first film Kim did not write himself and was so tough on him psychologically that he said he drove himself to the extreme. Then the film he had completed said made him "jump around in craziness" by receiving restricted screening rating twice. And the movie which was finally released after going through so much ups and downs, received drastically split response. "I Saw the Devil", which had been cut here and there, met with the audience in its whole form at the 15th Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF). 10Asia met with Kim Jee-woon who visited Busan with his proper devil.
* This article contains spoilers.

10: The response to the director's cut of "I Saw the Devil" was so great that it sold out in nine seconds of tickets going on sale. You probably had a hard time psychologically though when the film was first released in theaters so I'm sure you feel something more in particular.
Kim Jee-woon: The "I Saw the Devil" which was originally released may not be that different in fundamental but I ended up showing something that had been damaged to, to something I had originally thought, 'Ah, it's finally done'. This is what someone said. That if you compare this to artwork, it's the same as someone having vandalized your painting. And isn't vandalizing a completed picture sort of a crime? I felt that a person's individual work and a product of the industry had been damaged under the name of a national organization. Being able to show the audience my movie in its entirety felt good but also bittersweet because it had gotten censored which is something I had only read about in books. I ended up experiencing something from the past, stuff that happens in legends. I also thought 'Am I going through all sorts of things for a single movie'. (laugh) I used to think history develops and evolves but I now think there are times when it goes backwards.

10: Well, unlike the mixed reaction you got from local fans, the response from overseas is great, North America in particular. I heard the movie received great response at the Toronto International Film Festival as well. What was the atmosphere like there that you experienced firsthand?
Kim: There was this feeling I felt when I entered the theater after the movie finished. Should I say it was sort of a filling feeling? It was the most heated reaction I had received during the past few years at a film festival. Standing ovation isn't a formality that has set in at Toronto like it has at Cannes but everyone was giving me a standing ovation. (laugh) It was the first time I had felt such a feeling. The response to "I Saw the Devil" in Korea was split to completely different extremes but of the people who gave me good reviews overseas, a lot of them said it was my best work to date.

10: But other than the dialogue regarding human flesh, the director's cut seems to be barely different from the version released in theaters, to the extent that it seems odd that it got a restricted screening rating.
Kim: In physical terms, the biggest difference was that Gyeong-cheol and Tae-joo's conversation has been added. And people around me have said this version is much better. Some even said it felt like they saw a completely different movie. I think movies are fascinating. They'll give off different vibes even with a few minor tweaks to its pace. You could compare it to cooking in how the taste of food changes depending on the ingredients you use and the temperature you cook it. It made me think once again of how delicate a job it is to make movies. It just seemed that many people were disappointed that the sex scene between Gyeong-cheol and Se-jung had been omitted. (laugh)


Scenes from film "I Saw the Devil"

10: I had been wondering about that as well. A description on their past had been omitted in the version released in theaters but their sex scene was taken out completely as well in the director's cut.
Kim: It had to do with the running time of the movie as well as it not quite fitting in terms of timing. Soo-hyun coming out of the car after eavesdropping on their conversation is around when dinner is over but there seemed to be a problem with the timing in trying to put the sex scene in between that. And what I wanted to show through that scene was Gyeong-cheol's ruthlessness through sadistic sex but Se-jung came off as being more aggressive. (laugh) So in a way, it seemed that Se-jung stood out more than Gyeong-cheol at that moment. And this wasn't big but to add on another reason, the explanation on the two's relationship was left out when I was editing the movie so I heard it seemed closer to adultery with consent rather than rape. So some were saying it doesn't make sense that a woman being raped could be enjoying herself like that. But I couldn't go back to adding the explanation so I wanted to rid the movie of unnecessary misunderstanding. So after omitting that, I saw that the movie was more tidy but there was less of a gooey carnivorous feeling to it. And moviegoers who had gotten a strong impression from that scene were disappointed so I'm thinking of putting it back in for the DVD. (laugh) In a way, the DVD may be the complete director's cut.

10: The director's cut of "I Saw the Devil" was better because I could concentrate on it more than the one that was first released in theaters.
Kim: My movies are meant to be seen more than once. You'll like them more over time. (laugh)

10: I thought about why that was the case and I think I hadn't been able to enjoy the film in its entirety the first time because I was having such a hard time mentally. The gore wasn't as thick as I had expected it to be but the dark and damp atmosphere you had emphasized by dropping the saturation and contrast of the colors which was maintained throughout the film seemed to press down on me. I was actually rather relieved in the part where there was bloodshed from slashing.
Kim: I think it's probably because when the movie first came out, everybody was focused on how cruel and horrible it is which made people feel nervous but people have come to look at it from a distance with all the discussions and responses ongoing regarding the film. People became more free in that aspect which created the atmosphere allowing them to enjoy the film itself and the elements within it.

10: But that raised more questions. In the end, you could say that the way in which Soo-hyun executed Gyeong-cheol was extremely creative but I wondered whether Gyeong-cheol dying in the hands of his family could really be considered taking revenge on him.
Kim: In a way, Soo-hyun himself may have not known whether he would be taking revenge on him through that method. That's the thing about revenge -- even if you succeed at it you can't help feeling an emptiness in the end because you're trying to get compensation for what you have lost. That's why I tried to emphasize more of the sadness Soo-hyun would have felt as the one who is still alive. Because really, the ones who are torned are the ones who are alive, the families. Soo-hyun tried to make Gyeong-cheol experience the emotional pain he felt by inflicting physical pain on him but in the end, he thinks he had made the wrong judgement and even if it may be brief, wanted to inflict emotional pain which would be delivered to the family. But I think you would have to call that a curse rather than revenge. Soo-hyun saying to Gyeon-cheol, "I hope you are in pain even after you die" in the end is a curse. I wanted to express the dilemma the revenge-seeker faces in the end and is left with nothing else but to curse the other person. On the other hand, I think Soo-hyun himself must have thought he too shouldn't go as far as to have him be killed by someone who is family. He is giving back exactly what he suffered but what happens to the family? Despite that, Soo-hyun choosing to take such revenge was the moment he colludes with the devil so you could say that he was standing on the edge of a cliff because he himself had to become the devil to punish the devil.

Reporter : Lee Ji-Hye seven@
Photographer : Chae ki-won ten@
Editor : Jessica Kim jesskim@
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