‘The Witness’ brings a murder outside your door
In director Cho Kyu-jang’s crime thriller “The Witness,” Sang-hoon (Lee Sung-min), an ordinary office worker, witnesses a murder when he goes out on the balcony of his home after hearing a loud scream at dawn. When he is about to call the police, his eyes meet the killer’s as he stands counting the floors of the apartment building with his index finger to figure out where Sang-hoon lives.
Sang-hoon is so startled that he instantly turns off the lights and catches his breath for some time. The following day, police begin investigating the case and try to find possible witnesses of the murder case that happened in the front yard of the apartment complex.
But Sang-hoon never reports what he saw to the police out of fear even after realizing that he became the next target of the killer named Tae-ho (Kwak Si-yang). Overhearing his neighbors talk about the killer constantly hanging around the apartment complex in search of another victim, Sang-hoon learns he was not the only witness.
“I understand that nearly half of [Korean] people live in apartment buildings. I live in an apartment too, but have never had an interest in who is living next door,” Cho said during a press conference for the film at a Seoul theater on Wednesday. He said the movie was created out of his curiosity of how people who are accustomed to this way of life would react if a murder took place near them.
The thriller was inspired by the murder of Kitty Genovese, a young woman who was stabbed to death outside her apartment building in New York City in 1964. Two weeks later, The New York Times published an article claiming that 38 witnesses saw or heard the attack, but none of them took action to help her.
“Her death is evidence of bystander apathy,” the director said. “Looking into the case, I thought it had sufficient value to be made into a movie.”
Lee Sung-min said he was captivated by the film’s tightly woven and immersive screenplay.
“I also felt that the dramatic thriller happening in a familiar space was greatly attractive. I thought it would be fun if I could be part of it,” he said.
Kim Sang-ho, who plays a police detective looking into the case, agreed, saying, “I really liked the setting of the story happening in an apartment complex that is one of the most familiar forms of housing here.”
“The Witness” will open in local theaters on Aug. 15. It also stars Jin Gyeong as Sang-hoon’s wife and Kwak Si-yang as the killer.