‘The Wailing’ asks the big questions

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‘The Wailing’ asks the big questions



For filmmaker Na Hong-jin, a mystery thriller is the perfect way to deliver his message to the public.

His latest film, “The Wailing,” also known as “Gokseong” in Korean, deals with mysterious incidents happening in rural Gokseong County in South Jeolla after an outsider arrives in town.

The movie has been having a good run, selling almost 6.5 million tickets as of Tuesday, according to the Korean Film Council, quickly surpassing the director’s previous hits like “The Chaser” (2008) and “The Yellow Sea” (2010).

The movie features zombies as well as Korean shamanism and Catholicism, showing how various people try to deal with the pain that comes their way.

“Through this movie, I wanted to console the many out there who don’t understand why they had to endure tragedies,” Na said in a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo.

The director also shared his thoughts on the controversy over the movie’s ending, with some viewers criticizing the film for weak storytelling while others are giving it rave reviews.

Q. What are your thoughts on the diverse reactions to the ending?

A. One person explained my exact thoughts and metaphors on the internet; however, criticism was heaped on that person by other viewers who have different interpretations of the ending. After I saw this happening, I thought I should not talk about viewers’ interpretations.

I expected that there would be many different views on the movie. It is obvious when 400 people watch a movie, there will be 400 different interpretations. The opinions of those fans who enjoy watching this genre often would be especially different from those who don’t.

Did you really write “The Wailing” based on the question of whether victims of crime have a certain destiny?

Some drunk person killed a passerby. If we were to see what’s on the surface and the facts, that’s all we know. But don’t you think it’s so inhumane that one person can vanish so quickly even when they didn’t intend to? This is why I started “The Wailing.” Specifically, it questions the reason for humanity’s existence, which is why the story was expanded to the supernatural.

Why did you include several religions in “The Wailing”?

After the 1970s, occult movies that talk about good and bad based on Catholicism have disappeared because all the best occult movies came out during the ’70s. So I included diverse faiths because with only Catholicism, I cannot surpass previous movies. I thought Korean shamanism along with Catholicism would deliver a fresh experience to the audience.

Do you prefer to mention the name of a specific town where your fictional story happens, and really film there?

I worry about losing touch with reality with a staged background. I believe the location makes half of a movie. The location does not only become the movie’s backdrop, it also decides the concept of the light and the actors’ attitudes.

Why did you choose Gokseong?

My grandmother’s hometown is Gokseong. I know Gokseong well because I practically lived there. Because the movie talks about the supernatural, I wanted all the scenes to have a mysterious vibe.

In Gokseong, outside of the small town, there are no tall buildings. So when I filmed the landscape, I could see the sky over the ridge, which meant it contained nature and humans in one frame.

Why did you not give the movie a clear resolution?

As a filmmaker, I believe it is my duty to show new ideas to the audience. I don’t think repeating previous movies’ successful strategies has any advantages.

BY JANG SUNG-RAN [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

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