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Song Jung Ki stars in "My Name is Loh Kiwan"

Mar 22, 2024
  • Source by CINE21
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Guilt and Grace

 


 

 

“My name is Loh Kiwan. I’ve managed to come this far by promising myself that I would endure and overcome whatever hell I experienced in this land.” After short break since Hopeless, actor Song Jung Ki once again portrays a man who has a lonely battle against the world without any rights to stay or leave a place. A North Korean defector who came to Brussel, Belgium to be recognized as a refugee, Loh Kiwan has lived a life with endless suffering. Yet even during all these struggle for survival, Loh asks himself whether he deserves happiness and tortures himself saying he has no rights to stay or leave anywhere. Kiwan has to doubt his own basic human rights, the rights that is protected by constitution in any democratic country. But even in the agony, Kiwan meets Marie (Choi Sung-eun) and for the first time, he wants to save others and himself.

 

This is the third time you starred in a media adaptation since Sungkyunkwan Scandal and Reborn Rich. Do you read the original works before playing the role?

It depends. For Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Director Kim Won-seok recommended me to read the original work. For Reborn Rich, I didn’t read the book because I was told that reading the original novel won’t do much good. In case of Loh Kiwan, I felt the strong need to do so. I tried to infuse the sentiment and emotion from the original novel I Met Loh Kiwan Novel by Cho Hae-jin into my acting. Throughout the filming, guilt was the feeling that dominated me, and I found the feeling from the original book. Loh Kiwan asks Mary “Do I deserve happiness” in the film and this line was also brought by the guilt found from the book. When I asked Director Kim to put this line in, she included this line. 

 

You turned down My Name is Loh Kiwan 7 years ago, when it was first offered to you.

The reason for turning it down was because I couldn’t fully understand the latter part of the film. To Kiwan, survival is his biggest priority, and I couldn’t empathize with Kiwan’s romantic relationship that comes up in the second half. I even asked Producer Lim Seung Yong of Yong Film how Kiwan, with such guilt and at such exotic place could possibly feel romantic and whether he even deserves talking about romance. To be honest, I’ve been regretting turning Loh Kiwan down. After rereading the scenario of My Name is Loh Kiwan in 7 years, there were small modifications, but overall flow was still the same. But now I could understand the plot and Kiwan’s romance – maybe because I’ve gotten older. It just naturally came to me that if he wants to lead a good life, he would have kept love and friendship in his heart. 

 

We see a sequence of Kiwan’s agony only through your actions and facial expression without any lines, like in a silent movie. Kiwan’s countless struggle, only depicted by his body movement, brings A Wearwolf Boy (2012) to mind. 

I learned a lot from shooting A Wearwolf Boy: A scene with no lines gives the actor a potency. Watching the audience’s reaction at first hand made me realize that if I truly believe in the script, I don’t have to be anxious even if there’s no line. Based on the experience with A Wearwolf Boy, I trusted My Name is Loh Kiwan’s scenario. I decided to trust our own narrative flow. It’s a bit awkward to hype up my own movie(laughs), but the somber feeling in the sequence of the beginning of the film gave a nice start. 

 

In her last words to her son, Kiwan, Ok Hee (played by Kim Sung-ryung) utters “Live with your own name. Go and lead a good life.” What did this line mean to you as an actor who has no stage name?

There were times when I wondered why I didn’t use a stage name. It was certainly awkward sometimes. Yet, come to think of it, using a stage name was never my style. What Ok Hee’s dying wish means to Kiwan trails back to the aforementioned guilt. In the original novel, Kiwan tortures himself and has a strong inferiority complex. He was in hiding for a long time and didn’t take care of his own mother. However when his mom passes away in the middle of saving him, he was even more overwhelmed by the guilt. Her last words probably couldn’t resonate with him. But after meeting Marie, Kiwan wants to “lead a good life” and a decent life.

 

Kiwan and Marie share that they have nowhere to go back to and they lost their mothers. What was some other things that you thought Kiwan would emphathize with Marie about?

Sung-eun who played Marie and I had a talk about this. We thought we shouldn’t compare whose story was more rugged. It’s in human’s nature-- a thorn underneath my nail feels way more severe than somebody’s serious illness. I thought there would be a point when Marie would look way more fragile and weaker in Kiwan’s point of view. Kiwan would have spotted Marie’s silent cry asking for survival amid her terse words; in turn, Marie would have noticed that he wants a positive affirmation when he asks “Do I deserve happiness?”

 

Kiwan is always composed. Did you feel the need to act in a taciturn way rather than to show an outburst of emotion in order to playing the role of Kiwan?

Bursting one’s emotion may be cathartic to the actors playing the character, but I thought the audience won’t relate to it Just because the actors are crying on screen, it won’t make the audience sad. They need to feel it themselves and cry. I thought Kiwan’s tears may bring pity for him once but if he continuously cries, I thought it will create the opposite result. The cast from I, Daniel Blake tries to veil their feelings. I wanted to express the sticky and suffocating feeling Kiwan felt. 

 

Director Kim Hee Jin has noted Kiwan as a person “who keeps his chins up and never let himself down.”

She told me the same and I completely agree. Audience would empathize with a character when he has a series of unfortunate events but doesn’t abandon his dignity. One time, without even realizing it, I was so absorbed in Kiwan’s character that I improvised and made a frustrated sound.

Director Kim came to me after the take and said “I know how you are feeling but Kiwan would never make that noise.”

 

 

Written by Jung Jae Hyun

Photographs by Paek Jong Hun

Translated by Gyeong Yeon Kim


Republication, copying or redistribution by any means is prohibited without the prior permission of KOFIC and the original news source.
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