Directors going back to books for inspirationLiterary adaptations are a central theme this year in upcoming Korean films.
While films have always been made based on popular novels, Chungmuro, the heart of filmmaking in Korea, had turned its back on books for some time.
From the late 1990s, Korean filmmakers focused on producing original screenplays, while in the early 2000s they did several adaptations of short stories published on the Internet.
However, now we have come full circle. Already, 11 films based on both new bestsellers and classic texts are scheduled to be shot this year.
Novelist Hwang Seok-young is the author of three novels that are being made into films ― he recently signed a contract with Boram Film Co. to turn his latest book, “Simcheong,” into a movie.
Sidus F&H has already bought the copyrights to adapt two of Hwang’s novels, “The Shadow of Arms,” a tale set during the Vietnam War, and “An Old Garden," a story about a man and a woman who are political activists and meet again after being parted for 18 years. The filming of “An Old Garden” has already started under the direction of Lim Sang-su and starring top actors, Ji Jin-hee and Yum Jung-ah, as the leads.
Recent bestsellers are also among those being filmed ― filmmakers said the screenplay for Kim Byeola’s “Misil” has just been completed and Gong Ji-young’s “Our Happy Time,” currently being filmed, is scheduled for theater release in the fall.
“I was surprised when film companies called to ask about a book that has not even been published yet,” said Im Seong-gyu, head of Munidang Publishing. Mr. Im explained that a filmmaker recently asked about a new book that was likely to be nominated for local literature awards but had not arrived in stores yet.
“I guess the film industry is thirsty for new story ideas,” Mr. Im said.
Novelist Kim Hyeong-gyeong says films have a lot to learn from novels.
“What films want and expect from novels are powerful epic stories that can be inspirational,” Kim said.
Novels selected to be made into films usually deal with striking topics ― some might even push the societal envelope.
Hwang's “Simcheong,” for example, is not the typical legend about the daughter Simcheong who out of filial piety sacrifices herself for her father and jumps into the sea, only to be revived by the sea gods who are impressed by her courage and thus make her into an empress.
In Hwang’s version, a young girl is sold into prostitution, but returns as a wealthy woman. The director says that the original legend is similar to real incidents like this that happened in China.
Kim’s “Misil” also deals with a sensational topic. The story has a Silla Dynasty background, but the author imagines society then as matrilineal. In the story, a girl named Misil is a strong fighter, yet also a beauty with a very colorful love life.
“The book saved us a lot of time,” said Kim Hyeong-jun, head of Hanmac Films, the maker of “Misil,” “We would have been spending most of our time researching the historical facts [if it weren’t for the book].”
by Lee Hoo-nam