Director of thrillers finds softer side
After directing last year’s hit thriller “Moss,” veteran filmmaker Kang Woo-suk is back with another film that already appears destined for blockbuster status. This time, however, the director shows his softer side with a dramatic film about a baseball team with a lot of heart in “GLove.”
Throughout the years, Kang’s specialty has been intense thrillers such as “Silmido” (2003) and the “Public Enemy” trilogy. He has won numerous awards, including the 47th Daejong Film Award for “Moss,” the grand prize at the 40th Paek Sang Arts Awards in 2004 and the director’s award at the 23rd Blue Dragon Film Awards.
But Kang’s new movie is his first human drama. “GLove” tells the story of a baseball team whose members are all hearing-impaired. It is based on the true story of the Seongsim School baseball team in Chungju, North Chungcheong. They are guided by their coach Kim Sang-nam (Jung Jae-young), who has been banned from professional baseball and the school music teacher Joo-won (You Sun).
“GLove” will be released Thursday in theaters nationwide.
Q. Audiences were crazy for hard-core thrillers last year, but they seem to have grown tired of them. Were you trying to read the public?
A. Not necessarily. It was more like I was with them, moving from brutal thrillers to a human drama.
I broke down while I was directing “Moss.” I was always tense and angry. But it was different when I was shooting “How To Kill My Wife” (1994), “Two Cops” (1993) and “Happiness Has Nothing to Do with Student Records” (1989). I was happy and the staff was all having fun on the set.
I think I started shifting my perspective when I was shooting “Public Enemy” in 2002, which was about parricide. Unconsciously, I was looking for something stronger and more stimulating. Then when I grew tired of that, I started trying to make a bigger impact, but it came out as fear and anger.
When I was directing “Moss,” I received the script for “GLove” and I found it very touching. It reminded me of the time during “Two Cops” when the staff was laughing nonstop and making outtake reels.
But in an interview for “Moss” you said the movie was a turning point for you.
Yes, as a director it was definitely a challenge. But it wasn’t a movie that made me happy. I watched the movie “Blind Side” starring Sandra Bullock while I was preparing for “Moss.” The movie made me happy all day long. Scene by scene, the movie touches the audience without any grotesque or brutal setups.
I think one of the reasons why “Moss” wasn’t able to attract any more than 3,550,000 viewers was because it did not move audiences and many people felt it was too scary.
Why do you think so much money was invested in brutal thrillers in the past year?
Most of the scripts I’ve been receiving have been about murder. Even melodramatic films have some kind of murder twist. It’s abnormal. I think it shows that writers are running out of material.
Filmmakers are focusing too much on creating dramatic stories and disregarding reality. But a filmmaker can find a variety of stories just by paying attention to the world we live in and the one we might have in the future.
(For example), “Happiness Has Nothing to Do with Student Records” came from a real story about a student who committed suicide. The title of the film comes from the last words of his suicide note. Statistics show that more than 100 students each year commit suicide because of stress about their grades.
My debut 1988 film, “Sweet Brides,” was based on another true story of a young man from the countryside who committed suicide. It was about the town, the neighborhood and the world people lived in. A lot of people cried and laughed because they were able to connect to the story.
When you first read the script (for “GLove”), you said you wondered whether hearing-impaired people could really play baseball. Then you watched a documentary on KBS called “Shoot at the Sun.”
I wondered why a story like that had not yet been made into a film. As a story about hope and courage, it’s very moving.
Were there any particularly moving moments you can recall from when you were shooting the film?
In one scene, the team loses 32-0, and the coach makes the whole team run back to school. The kids let out the anger and frustration they feel deep inside.
I couldn’t stand up after we shot the scene. The person next to me was sobbing and other staff members were tearing up.
Are there any points in the movie when the audience is likely to cry?
I cried twice while I was working on the continuity. During the scene I talked about a moment ago and another time during a scene in which Myung-jae (Jang Ki-bum) - who had to end his career as a baseball player because of his sudden hearing loss - begs the coach to let him pitch. I thought if I was moved, the audience would be too. The scene shows the team willing themselves to get back up on their feet.
But none of the scenes were calculated. I just wanted to interact with the audience.
If “GLove” becomes a hit, do you think it can be attributed to the idea that people, during times of economic difficulty, want a heartwarming story to watch?
People do have a thirst for heartwarming movies. Every day, the news is about fights, murder and corruption.
People talk about family because there’s no place like home, and stories about elderly ladies who save up their money and donate it to charity are also moving. We need these pure sensations.
Some people have said that you are copying the kinds of films that are already out there. They point out that you are dealing with familiar material.
Last night at the premiere, I heard there were middle-aged men crying during the entire movie and that they were embarrassed when the lights came on. If my message was delivered to them, that’s good enough for me. For me, it’s more important to make people feel something rather than worry about what everyone else is doing.
The kids on the Seongsim School team gave me a lot of courage and helped me through some difficult times. They have brought me back to the days when I first entered the film business. In future films, I hope audiences see that I’m not getting old but that I’ve broadened my perspective.
By Ki Sun-min [email@example.com]
Related Korean Article [중앙일보]
희망 용기 감동을 보았다 이런 얘기가 바로 영화다
청각장애 야구부 충주 성심학교 소재 ‘글러브’만든 강우석 감독
지난해 윤태호 작가의 인기 웹툰을 원작으로 한 ‘이끼’로 젊은 감성과 성공리에 접속했던 강우석(51) 감독. 그가 ‘이끼’를 완성하자마자 쉼 없이 들어간 작품이 ‘글러브’(20일 개봉)다. 국내 최초의 청각장애인 야구부인 충주 성심학교 아이들의 실화를 바탕으로 한 스포츠 휴먼드라마다. 성심학교 야구부원들은 강호 군산상고와의 연습경기에서 32대0으로 대패하지만, 각고의 노력 끝에 봉황대기 1회전에서 동점까지 갔다가 결국 아쉬운 눈물을 흘린다. 이들을 세상 밖으로 이끄는 건 프로야구에서 영구 제명된 말썽쟁이 퇴물 선수 김상남(정재영)과 음악교사 주원(유선). 이들은 서로를 보듬어 안으며 절망과 무기력을 하나씩 걷어내기 시작한다. ‘글러브’는 인터넷 유행어를 빌자면 ‘잔혹스릴러 종결자’라는 별명이 붙을 만하다. 지난해 충무로를 채웠던 잔혹 코드가 보는 이의 마음을 끝없이 황량하게 했다면, 이 영화는 속절없이 눈물 훔치게 하는 감동 코드로 가득하다. 2003년 ‘실미도’로 한국영화 1000만 관객 시대를 열었던 충무로 최고의 흥행사다운 만듦새다. 올해 이후 한국 상업영화 트렌드가 휴먼드라마로 바뀐다면, 그건 상당 부분 ‘글러브’의 공이라 해도 과언이 아닐 것이다. 11일 강 감독을 만났다.
-지난해 한국영화 관객들은 잔혹스릴러에 열광 했지만 지치기도 했다. 그런 심리를 읽은 건가.
“내가 관객의 코드를 읽은 게 아니라 내가 그런 관객의 심정처럼 변해가던 중 도저히 이래선 안 된다 싶어 돌아온 거다. ‘이끼’를 찍으면서 내 자신이 무너져간다는 생각을 많이 했다. 촬영장에 나가면 늘 신경이 곤두서 있었고 화난 감독이 돼 있었다. 그 옛날 ‘투캅스’‘마누라 죽이기’‘행복은 성적순이 아니잖아요’ 등을 찍을 때는 달랐다. 촬영장에 나가면 늘 즐거웠고 다같이 웃으면서 찍었다. 그런데 어느새 내가 관객을 자극하지 못해, 깜짝쇼를 준비하지 못해 안달 난 사람이 돼 있었다. 아마도 (존속살인을 소재로 한) ‘공공의 적’(2002년) 이후부터였던 것 같다. 좀더 센 거 없나, 좀더 자극적인 거 없나를 무심결에 찾게 됐다. 그러다보니 단순해지고 신선함이 없어졌다. 더 큰 자극을 주려고 하다 보니 그게 더 큰 공포로 다가왔다. 나도 이제 (감독으로서) 끝나가는구나 느꼈다. 그렇게 ‘이끼’를 만들던 중 ‘글러브’ 시나리오를 읽게 됐다. 가슴이 따뜻해졌다. 제작진이 웃음을 참지 못해 수도 없이 NG가 나던 ‘투캅스’시절이 떠올랐다.” …