Bae brings life to an ‘Air Doll’
The decision to play the character was a difficult one for Bae, who rose to fame with roles in critically-acclaimed films such as “Take Care of My Cat” (2001) and “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” (2002) and blockbusters such as “The Host” (2009).
After all, she would be playing an inflatable doll and the role would require nudity and more than a few bedroom scenes.
But it was Bae’s close friend, director Park Chan-wook, well-known for his films “Oldboy” (2003) and “Thirst” (2009), who encouraged her to grab the chance.
For her performance, Bae was honored with a total of five awards in Japan, including prizes from the Japan Academy Awards and Takasaki Film Festival. The film premiered at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival last year, where Bae won rave reviews for her performance.
As a testament to the film’s success, the rights to the film have since been sold to production companies in countries including the United Kingdom and France.
Bae, who started her career as a magazine cover girl in 1998 at the age of 19, speaks modestly of her success.
“As an actress, I like to play surreal roles and make them real. So I was immediately attracted to this film,” the 31-year-old actress said in a recent press conference. “But I don’t think I’m entitled to receive all these awards.”
In the beginning of the film, Bae speaks, walks and blinks like a doll. But as her character Nozomi begins to develop emotions, she becomes more human than the real people around her, including the man who would rather build a relationship with an inflatable doll than with a real woman.
“During production, I strived to empty myself because an inflatable doll is essentially empty inside,” Bae said. She went on to say that she is the type of actress who easily forgets her character after she finishes a film, but that this film was different.
“I may sound unprofessional, but I felt drained after the film was over and I didn’t want to do anything for a while,” she said.
The film, which is based on a Japanese manga, is not the fluffy comedy it could have been but has strong philosophical underpinnings that seem to ask what it is that makes us human.
“Inflatable dolls exist only when inflated by others. And our relationships are pretty much the same. We only exist when we relate to others,” said Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, who implored Bae to join the cast.
The Japanese director is famous outside of Japan for his 2005 hit “Nobody Knows.”
Despite the language barrier, Bae says she and Koreeda made a great team.
“I just want to thank Koreeda. I really relied on him whenever I didn’t know what to do. He told me not to think of the character as a doll but as a newborn baby who has just started to learn about the world.”
The film is rated for viewers 18 and older.
By Sung So-young [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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