Yi movie sweeps audiences away

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Yi movie sweeps audiences away


Actor Choi Min-sik plays the Joseon Dynasty’s Admiral Yi Sun-sin in the movie “Roaring Currents.”[JoongAng Ilbo]

The hottest movie in Korean cinemas right now is “Roaring Currents,” a period film that opened Wednesday. Within 38 hours of its release, it had already attracted an audience of one million - a record in Korea for such a short amount of time.

Actor Choi Min-sik is at the center of attention in the movie, which is based on Admiral Yi Sun-sin of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Yi led the country to a legendary naval victory during the 1597 Battle of Myeongnyang with only 12 ships against the Japanese navy’s 300.

In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, Choi said it was extremely difficult for him to understand the agony Yi might have felt during the battle.

Q. What was it like to act as a national hero?

A. I thought if I did it wrong, I would be the target of criticism. I felt that the public was paying [particular attention] even before the movie opened. It felt like they were pressuring me not to be mediocre in telling the story of a great hero. I’m confident that I [put in my best effort]. True fans will be able to feel the sincerity.

What do you mean by sincerity?

On set, it was the supporting characters as well as the lead actors and actresses who did their best to show the worst [of war]. We all took on the challenge, and it was as if we were putting our lives on the line. We felt the responsibility of depicting a serious historical incident. I think that will show on screen.

What did you do to understand General Yi’s character better?

Someone as ordinary as myself will never get to understand how a human being can have such a strong belief. But he was indeed a human being, and I think he must have been scared at moments. I relied a lot on “Nanjung Ilgi” [“The War Diary of Yi Sun-sin”] because the personal and honest records touched me on many levels.

Did you understand his loneliness?

I tried. If he were someone I could meet up with, I would want to ask him over a glass of soju why he had to go out there when he was abandoned by a king, entrapped by others who would say bad things about him, and when his subordinates only focused on [saving their own lives].

I was in awe of his courage and loyalty, but at the same time I found myself becoming so small. My confidence fell apart.

Were you scared?

It was the first time I felt such fear and pain. I wasn’t sure if I was taking every moment as the general did. I felt like he was watching behind my back when we were filming.

What are your thoughts on comments that this movie forces people to be more patriotic?

What’s wrong with feeling some patriotism from a commercial movie for the first time in a long time? It is a movie’s educational and social role to present history right. I hope this film inspires others so that we can see more movies carrying some historical value.

Do you think you can do a sequel?

I don’t think I can do it twice. It’s time for me to let go of Yi from my heart. I’m going to visit his graveyard soon and say goodbye.

BY LEE EUN-SUN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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