A director’s guide to salvation and love

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A director’s guide to salvation and love

“Cyborg Girl,” the new film by director Park Chan-wook, is a cheerful melodrama starring two of Korea’s heartthrobs, Rain and Im Su-jeong.

The film, which will be released on December 7, is an unusual story for a director most known for his cruel revenge trilogy, that ended with “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.” It is also the first time one of his films has received a general admission rating 12.
The film is a love story about two patients in a mental hospital ― a girl who will not eat, insisting she’s a Cyborg, and a boy addicted to robbery.
The JoongAng Ilbo recently met with Mr. Park, who was working on computer graphics during last minute post-production.
Q. In a statement about “Cyborg Girl” you said that after working with young actors, you wanted to be young again. Do you not consider yourself young?
A. I was only saying that I didn’t work with actors like Choi Min-shik [the main character in Park’s award-winning “Oldboy”]. It doesn’t mean that I am old.
I’ve never done a coming of age film before. But you couldn’t really call the characters young spirits, because they are confined, instead of moving around places like Cheongdam-dong. Once I began working with them, they were young only on the surface. Ji-hun (Rain) is a workaholic, like a middle-aged father. Su-jeong also talks very slowly; she’s not a party girl. It’s probably because they started working at a young age, but they were very different from my generation at their age. I had hoped to taste their spring of youth.

You said that in the past, “all my films are about salvation.” Your new film seems to show people who appear abnormal on the outside, but have a strong sense of their own identity. Are you suggesting that identification is a way to salvation?
It’s either sympathy or identification. It doesn’t mean that you look down on that person. You just feel a sense of pity for someone. Maybe that is love. The girl in the film believes she can’t have sympathy because she’s a militant Cyborg. So she wants the boy to steal her sympathy. They are patients in a mental hospital where the doctors are supposed to determine the meaning of salvation. Instead the film is saying, “Let’s find a way to live first.” There are frequent mentions of the phrase “purpose of existence.” It implies that if you live without starving to death, that’s also salvation.

When you chose a mental hospital as the film’s backdrop, we expected a clinical setting. Yet in the trailer, the colors and style were very lush. It reminded me of the heroine’s line from “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance,” in which she said “I like anything pretty.”
That’s what Geum-ja thinks. Style in a film functions only to support the story and characters. Style is more than what you find in a wealthy estate or palace. Even if the film is set is a military barracks, you can play around with the patterns of its wall coverings.

The film was rated 12. Did you fulfil your wish to show your film to your daughter who goes to elementary school?
I wanted her to get some benefit, because as a director’s child, she suffers when her father leaves home for months. She’ll probably get a different feel from other audience members when she sees my completed film, as she saw me writing the script and saw her parents talking over the casting. We watch classic films together by Ozu Yasujiro, Jacques Demy and Sergio Leone. But I found that she watches films like “Pirates of the Caribbean” with her friends.
What kind of movie is your next film “Bat,” which stars Song Gang-ho as a vampire?
I wanted to make a classic. I always thought something unfamiliar and bizarre was the most important factor in my films, but I want to gradually build emotions one by one even though it accompanies cliches. The film has a lot of violence but the real basis is romance.

You are also producing Bong Jun-ho’s next film, “Snow Train.”
I don’t have a huge ambition to be a producer. I hope that talented directors like Bong will soon be commissioned by major international projects and sent abroad quickly so that I can sleep comfortably.

by Lee Hoo-nam
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