Bong wins praise at Cannes festival for horror movieNews from Cannes last month made the Korean film industry buzz with excitement.
The president of Magnolia Pictures said director Bong Joon-ho’s new monster film, “The Host,” had “the potential to become a classic of the genre,” adding it was the “most impressive and imaginative movie monster” he had seen in a long time. Critic for the New York Times Manohla Dargis said it was “the best film” that she “had seen at the fest so far.”
But with the film yet to be released in Korea, domestic critics had to wait eagerly for a press meeting with the director in Seoul last Thursday.
“The movie was well received in Cannes, but was not 100 percent finished when it was screened there,” Bong said. “We are still re-editing the music and the [computer graphic images].”
It may have been an excuse for showing the film abroad while delaying its domestic screening until late July, but the comment heightened curiosity and expectations of the film.
More than 300 reporters and film critics attended the conference in a Seoul hotel lounge. Cameras flashed, pens scribbled and excited murmurs filled the room when Bong’s mutant tadpole briefly appeared on the screen.
“We did not want the monster to look like it was from outer space or something that stamped out of the deep earth,” Bong said. “I thought it should be realistic, something we could imagine emerging from the Han River.”
For a movie mutant, the creature is small ― neither a Godzilla-type nor an ogre with Herculean strength. It is closer to a malformed reptile or deformed fish that could imaginably be spawned in Seoul’s sewers or polluted waters.
“The art director and I kept reminding ourselves that Song Gang-ho and his dysfunctional family, not some cool action heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Tom Cruise, were going to fight against this monster” he said.
The audience laughed as Song, who played the narcoleptic drop-out father in the film, chuckled also.
“I had deep trust in director Bong because I worked with him on ‘Memories of Murder,’” Song said. “There is no such film in the history of Korean cinema so I had no idea what would happen. Without full confidence in the director, an actor would never agree to work on such a film.”
Bong said he was inspired to make a monster movie in high school. The apartment in Jamsil, southeastern Seoul, where he and his family then lived overlooked the Han River. One night, he was looking out and thought he saw a black murky object climbing up the bridge. He opened his eyes wider and saw it jumping back into the waters again.
“Believe me, I wasn’t drunk nor did I sniff glue,” he said. “But that was what I thought I saw, and I thought it was cool.”
“That was when I decided I would make a film about a monster living in the Han River when I became a director,” he said. “And it finally happened.”
Although the film is categorized as science fiction or horror, Bong said he wanted the audience to see it as a family drama as well. “This film is about a family who has to fight against the monster by themselves when what they really need is help,” he said. “We can question why there was no one there for them.”
by Lee Min-a