Powerhouse actor Song Kang-ho talks to JU Sung Chul about portraying a “sweet” middle-aged ex-gangster in his latest film Hindsight
Not many would dispute the statement that actor Song Kang-ho is one of the best, if not the best actor currently working in the Korean film industry. He’s always met our expectations and Hindsight is no exception. Du-heon (Song) has left a gang to start a new life by opening a restaurant when a girl comes into his life. A solitary middle-aged man, Du-heon finds himself very much drawn to this new change. A man who’s lived all his life without wavering, he starts to waver for the first time. But the girl is in fact someone sent to watch and kill him. Hindsight is one of song’s films in which he reveals the least on the surface while portraying an inner maelstrom of emotions. That’s why this film offers a lot more than just a sweet melodrama between a former gang member hiding his past and his much younger girlfriend. It’s very rare to find an actor who can so skillfully and in such a controlled manner portray a character that could just as easily explode or sink. In Hindsight Song Kang-ho has done it again.
- What did you think when you first read the script?
= I looked forward to working with director LEE Hyun-seung. He’s someone with remarkable sensitivity and he’s also done some great work, so I’d always wanted to work with him. He’s extremely talented in creating stylish visuals and he’d always struck me as someone with a great sense of affection towards his actors and characters. When I read the script, I was impressed with the structure of the plot as well as the relationships between the characters. There have been films such as The Professional by Luc Besson, but I felt that this film has a totally different sensibility.
- Of all the films you’ve done, this seems to be the closest to being a full-fledged melodrama.
= If I absolutely had to pick melodramas from my filmography, they would be Secret Sunshine, Thirst and Hindsight. They all have different ways of portraying love but I would think that Hindsight is the most everyday and approachable kind of melodrama. I’ve been a bit embarrassed and also worried about whether people would squirm at my portrayal. Thankfully, I’ve got some positive responses saying that my performance managed to “move ladies’ hearts” (laughs). Female audience members have reacted positively and that’s made me satisfied.
- In the film, Du-heon stares at the sea whenever he has a free moment. I wonder what you were thinking those times.
= I sat and thought about how Du-heon would live alone in the world, what would happen to a middle-aged man who’s left everything behind. He looks as if he has no worries but inside, he’s going through turmoil. His ex-colleagues want him to go back to the gang and are constantly pushing him to do so. Despite the strong pressure, Du-heon is adamant about not going back. On top of that, he finds himself drawn to a girl. At the same time, he finds out that his old boss has been murdered in a brutal way, so he is even more tormented.
- What do the gang and the girl mean to Du-heon?
= As the film progresses, the dichotomy between the gang and the cooking school becomes blurred and meaningless. Hindsight is about the maelstrom of emotions Du-heon experiences after he leaves the gang and meets the girl. And his emotions become stronger and stronger after the chance meeting. It could be that meeting the girl means much more than anything else he’s experienced in the past.
- The scenes where Du-heon becomes closer to the girl are memorable.
= Du-heon learns little by little how to use a smartphone - something that seemed very difficult to him before, and he starts to order “semi-sweet” coffees in cafés. He’s lived his life very differently from “ordinary people” and he finds out about how the world is changing through this girl. He strikes me as rather a sweet middle-aged man. The ruffian tries to tell her funny stories but all he can come up with are unfunny jokes from the 80s. He has no idea about what people find funny these days. So he decides to watch what she does and memorize everything in an attempt to please her. She seems as lonely as he is, so he wants protect her and make her happy. It might seem slow and old-fashioned, but slow and steady - that is Yoon Du-heon’s way of loving a woman. It grows on you.
- What are your future plans?
= I’ve just finished filming director. Yu Ha’s Howling with Lee Na-young and I’m about to start shooting Snowpiercer directed by BONG Joon-ho. You’ll get to rediscover actress Lee Na-young in Howling and, along with everyone else, I’m very excited about Snowpiercer as it’s Bong’s long-awaited next film.
Photo by SON Hong-joo