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Revenge Is Best Served With Humor

2005/07/21 | 127 views | Permalink | Source

Interview With Director Park Chan-wook

By Shim Sun-ah
Yonhap News Agency

The latest film by South Korean director Park Chan-wook, whose film "Old Boy" won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year, was unveiled to the media early this week.

Starring Lee Young-ae, the female lead of South Korea's hit historical drama "A Jewel in the Palace (Dae Jang Geum)", the movie titled "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" is the last installment of Park's trilogy about revenge.

"Lady Vengeance" tells the story of Kum-ja, a woman who takes revenge after serving 13 years in jail in place of an evil man who abducts and kills a 6-year-old boy.

Yonhap News Agency spoke with the director at a Seoul hotel Wednesday.

Question: Have you experienced much stress over trying to make a better film after winning a prize at Cannes?

Answer: No, I haven't. I was under pressure to create a fresh and different movie rather than a better film. A director cannot make a movie that is totally different from previous works, though. I always feel that kind of burden when I embark on a new film. Cannes has nothing to do with this feeling.

Q: What potential did you see in Lee when you worked with her in "JSA - Joint Security Area" five years ago, and how has she changed?

A: Unfortunately, she only played a small part as Sophie and there were multiple protagonists in the film. Watching "One Fine Spring Day" by director Heo Jin-ho, she still wasn't able to show what she could really do, although she was an excellent actress. So she was the first woman who came to my mind when I thought about making a film about a woman. Now, she seems to be stronger than before, physically and mentally. It's probably because she took the role in "Dae Jang Geum", as she said. She was really a tough woman in "Lady Vengeance".

Q: "Lady Vengeance" is very humorous.

A: The previous two installments of the trilogy _ "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" and "Old Boy" _ were both serious. So I wanted to start the movie with a relaxed mood in the first half.

Q: Did you have foreign viewers in mind when you wrote the short part in which Paek (played by Choi Min-sik) serves as a simultaneous interpreter between Kum-ja and her daughter?

A: Not really. The character of Paek is a teacher at a private English institute. I could not help but use him as an interpreter in a situation which a mother and daughter experience language barriers. When we shot the film, Choi did not read his lines so humorously. His voice was dubbed over (by a fluent English speaker) at a studio later.

Q: It seems to be very kind of you to use narration. Doesn't this movie tell the audience too directly through the lines of Kum-ja that people should atone for their sins if they have any?

A: The lines are what Kum-ja said to her daughter. As Kum-ja planned to return her to her stepparents in Australia, she probably felt the need to give her lessons about life in an obvious and clear manner. I thought it would be better to let Kum-ja directly tell what she wants to tell rather than beating around the bush. There would be no need to do so in that situation.

Moreover, I thought if I use such words as atonement and salvation that are never used in commercial films and not commonly used in our daily life, it would give much enjoyment.

Q: Do you think revenge can be justified?

A: Of course not. I mean, there is no need to take revenge because vengeance is worthless and meaningless behavior. But people tend to take revenge knowing this very well.

Who on earth can remain patient in a situation in which the person who destroyed you is in front of you, unarmed, and you have a murder weapon in your hands?

Q: Do you think you have fully told a story about revenge in films?

A: No, I don't. I can make 10 or more films on that subject. But I will not stick to the matter any longer because I have other stories to tell.

Q: Does that mean your next film will be lighter and brighter?

A: Yes. I'm going to make a film about a teenage girl living in a mental hospital. It will be a funny film with strong elements of fantasy and romance. Its budget is 2.5 billion won ($2.3 million). My goal is to begin filming it this year.

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