Jun 2016 VOL.62


  • Director LIM WOO-SEONG
  • by SHIN Dooyoung / 10.07.2011

  • Up-and-coming director Lim Woo-seong speaks to SHIN Dooyoung about
    his San Sebastian entry Scars and the challenges of adapting novels into films
    Director Lim Woo-seoung, who adapted Vegetarian from HAN Gang’s novel of the same title, has once again made a film from a novel by Han. Invited to San Sebastian International Film Festival’s Zabaltegi-New Directors section, Scars is based on Baby Buddha from Han Gang’s short story collection Fruit of My Woman. The film talks of the complicated married relationship between Sang-hyeop, a perfectionist newscaster and Sun-hee, a children’s book illustrator. Like Vegetarian, Scars is true to the images from the novel, describing the characters’ psychology in detail. The film has received funds from the Graduate School of Digital Image & Contents at Dongguk University, and Chungmuro Media Center’s Entertainment Group. Produced by Innovation Factory, the film’s international sales agent is M-line Distribution.
    - Your new film is adapted from a Han Gang novel, too?
    = In 2008, I entered Donggguk University Graduate School. Scars was a project I submitted to a screenplay contest, a promotional event at school. The funding was about KW30 million and while thinking a small-scale story would be nice for such small amount of support, Baby Buddha crossed my mind. It seemed perfect for a chamber play with the focus on a couple. As I had been occupied with Vegetarian from 2005, Scars was a project that came out of nowhere. That same year, Vegetarian received KOFIC funding, so after finishing off just the shooting for Scars and two days of rest, I rushed into pre-production for Vegetarian. The film got me to the Busan and Sundance film festivals, and after a year I returned to editing Scars>. It was like a going on road of spritual discipline and it took two years to complete. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to move onto the next step unless I finished Scars.

    - Taking a novel and transferring it in detail onto the screen seems quite challenging.
    = As a director, it seems unfair to hear people say it is easy to adapt a novel into a film. A film critic wrote about Vegetarian that a film needs to designate all the non-designated domain of a novel. What this means is that readers each have different images of what a novel describes, and cinema is a process of designating one of those images. Say there is a description reading “The woman’s nose was sharp and her looks were sharp.” It isn’t easy to designate an actress who fits such description. Costumes, art and all need to be designated one by one, which is likewise a difficult job.
    - In Scars actress PAK So-yeon plays Sun-hee and her role is significant. She is in almost all the scenes and carries the story by herself.
    = When we first started the project, I had just returned from studying abroad and had no experience working on Chungmuro films, so crew members introduced me to Pak So-yeon. Like CHAE Min-seo who was already working on losing weight even before she was cast for her role in Vegetarian, Pak, too, desperately wanted this part. I decided to cast her after a bit of consideration and I was quite happy with the result. When she was acting ill, she actually fell sick, too. There was a scene where her face turned pale and she almost seemed possessed.
    - I read the original story after seeing the film and I could see how you used the props in detail. Things like a frame of hanbok for example, which suggests the work Sun-hee’s mother did for a living.
    = It was an effort to provide hints. We placed various objects Sun-hee’s painting room, too, and if you don’t look closely you will just pass them by. I did not wish to make Scars a hospitable film the kind that explains everything. In novels, there is something called the omniscient viewpoint. Literally, the writer is god. But I am not the creator of the Scars charactors. I did not assume I understood everything about this woman named Sun-hee and I was in a position where I had to keep studying and observing her. This is the manner in which I put together the storyboards and how I used the camerawork.
    - You are exceptionally popular at foreign film festivals.
    = I was a little surprised, too. Scars wasn’t invited to the Busan film festival but was invited by San Sebastian. With Vegetarian, I knew from the start its theme would be fully accepted internatioinally. On the other hand, I didn’t expect much for Scars. If I had to come up with a reason for my getting invitations to overseas film festivals, perhaps it’s because I studied in the U.S. and the styles of films I watched there somehow quietly rubbed off onto my work.
    - What are you planning next? No desires to become a commercially successful director?
    = I think the aim of making a film is important. If I make a commercial film that costs about KW3 billion, I would obligated to earn back at least KW3 billion. I had no such obligations for Vegetarian or Scars. I was able to try out experimental methods and talk in-depth without having to compromise on a single cut. But I don’t think I’ll be able to have such complete freedom anymore. I can’t always work in low-budget. Can’t take it any more. (laughs).
    Photo by OH Gye-ok
    Oct. 7, 2011
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