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‘Pa-myo’ Invited to Berlin Film Fest’s Forum Section

Feb 16, 2024
  • Source by CINE21
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‘Pa-myo’ Invited to Berlin Film Fest’s Forum Section




“The film that stands out the most as a genre film in the Film Fest’s forum that presents several auteurism films and genre films,” Berlin International Film Festival commented on Pa-myo (otherwise known as Exhuma). “Director Jang is undoubtedly a brilliant director, and the actors’ performance were outstanding as well.” added the film festival. Pa-myo is the new film in five years by director Jang Jae-Hyun who brought the sensational new era of Korean occult with The Priests (2015) and Svaha: The Sixth Finger (2019). Pa-myo, a mystery film, follows an eccentric case of a fengshui expert, undertakers and shamans moving a suspicious grave after receiving a tremendous amount of money. Pa-myo releases on February 22nd in South Korea.


“I let go of the obsessing over scenes” says Director Jang Jae-Hyun


What inspired you to create Pa-myo?

When I was a young boy living in a small rural village, I saw villagers moving a century-year-old grave. I still remember the color and the smell of the soil and villagers holding Jesa (Korean traditional rites) prior to moving the grave vividly. I didn’t know why they were moving the grave, but I had a mixed feeling – scared, curious and heart-pounding. Since then, caskets and coffins captivated me (laughs). Once, I went over to my friend’s house who’s a undertaker and lied in a casket. Based on those experience and liking, I developed Pa-myo and jumped into researching before creating the storyline.


What was the research process like?

I worked with undertakers, geomancers and shamans, moving graves. To the undertakers, I was a worker they didn’t have to pay; for me, it was an opportunity to learn. I’m almost there to obtain my funeral director’s license, but I haven’t completed my training since I spent a lot of time making this movie.


How did it feel to actually dig up the grave?

One day, I had to go to Jinan-gun (North Jeolla Province) to dig up a grave. A factory was being built near it, and a mishap let the water flow into the grave. The process of swiftly pulling out and opening up the casket and burning everything, gave me a bizarre feeling; we were completely removing something and disclosing the hidden past. It was a cathartic feeling, as if there was a rotten corn in my foot being removed. I wanted to embody this feeling in the movie. 

Sang-deok, the main character is a geomancer. How did you start the research on geomancer?

There is a common misunderstanding about fengshui being a superstition. However, it is a process applying scientific methodology based on geology, microbiology, and ethnography. Building houses is called Yang-taek (or yang feng shui) and finding a grave site is called Eum-take (or yin feng shui). Every geomancer has his/her own specialty and there is a big academia too. The institution has a special smaller academia revolving around the ground, mountain, and urban development.


Sang-deok follows the footstep of experts from your previous works such as Father Kim (starred by Yoon-suk KIM) of The Priest and pastor Park (starred by Jung Jae LEE) of Svaha: The Sixth Finger.

I guess that’s because I’m a bit lazy (laughs). With an expert as a main character, there is no need for further explanation, making the storytelling more efficient. Pa-myo is not a horror movie, but it still has a hint of horror. Horror movies generally show victims harassed by ghosts, which never intrigued me. I rather liked the movies like Mr.Vampire (1987) or Van Helsing (2004) with masters of bringing out the ghosts. From the spirit’s point of view, we might be the villains who solve the case, and this is way more appealing to me.


Will we see comedic interaction between Sang Deok and Young Geun (played by Yoo Hae-jin)?

Recently, a lot of movies included comedic interactions as if they were mandatory. But for this movie, I didn’t want to include any lines just for comedy without any narrative purposes. I restrained from creating lines that did not share their professional characteristics or their personal tendencies.



What’s the dynamic between Hwarim and Bong Gil – the shamans, and Sang Deok and Young Geun?

They often stand against but still cooperate with one another. The movie shows the two teams working in their individual fields for similar amount of time. For The Priest, characters overshadowed storyline and for Svaha: The Sixth Finger, the narrative was too serious, outweighing the characters. I wanted to balance out the two in this movie, bringing out the bright side of the previous works. When I was writing the script, the pandemic broke out. Everyone was talking about theaters businesses and the future of cinema, and I visited the movies and pondered on them. My conclusion was to create an intriguing, intuitive and purely entertaining movie that can deliver a mesmerizing experience on the big screen.


You were worried about sophomore slump when creating Svaha: The Sixth Finger. How does it feel to create the third feature film?

There were technically difficult scenes. I try not to use CGI as much, meaning that we had to shoot the background and objects. We didn’t construct any set, making the process even more draining; the pictures of the spirit were the result of blurry pictures of real actors sitting in 6 hours of makeup for the sole reason. The occult genre is essentially a realistic fantasy. Although the shooting may be exhausting, it would be realistic and captivating for the audiences; so I directed the actors to interact with real backgrounds and objects while acting.


What was the purpose behind adopting a different approach from the previous works?

I faced my limit shooting the previous works. Trying to create every montage perfectly and to include the acting in a stylish way rather made the movies monotonous. The audiences do not just observe individual scenes in theater; they feel the overall energy of the film. So I let go of obsessing over scenes during shooting Pa-myo. I wanted to include the tangible energy and the vigor created in editing, connecting, and crosscutting the scenes that I felt with The Yellow Sea (2010) and Asura: The City of Madness (2016). Yes, the individual cuts may be little rustic. And yes, the takes may be blurry. But if the shot brought out an odd feeling, I chose to go with it.


What to look in Pamyo

I tried to maximize the extreme tension that can only be felt in the theater and the strange feeling we get with unfamiliar things. I can’t explain that all here, but the most unexpected ‘unfamiliar object’ appears in the later half of the movie. I wish the audience would find it intense estranged.


Written by Woo Bin Lee

Photography by Kye Ok Oh

Translated by Gyeong Yeon Kim


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