Jun 2016 VOL.62


  • Lovely Eyes of The Wise
  • by KIM Hyun-min / 02.04.2013
  • Directed of Nobody’s Daughter Haewon  HONG Sangsoo
    Director HONG Sangsoo’s latest feature film Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is set to hit Korean theaters in February 2013 and will screen in competition at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.
    Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is the director’s fourteenth feature film and is the first-person account of the few eventful days a young college student faces after her mother leaves for Canada. We talked to the director about this lovely and wistful film unfolding in the Seochon district of Seoul.

    - First, I’d like to ask about the meaning and inspiration behind the film’s title. 
    It was not about the meaning. The sense of the words felt right and I liked them, so these words became the title.
    - JEONG Eun-chae is a new addition to the group of actors in your films. What were your impressions about the actress during photography and what did you discover about her?
    For me, it’s always difficult to arrange the feel of an actor into words. I thought she was quite a good actor on set. Working together was a pleasant experience.
    - This is the first film in which a young woman becomes the narrator from beginning to end, in its entirety. Is there a reason behind making ‘Haewon’, a young woman in the early twenties, your protagonist? I’m also curious about why you named her so.
    I had decided to make a film and was looking for actors when I met JEONG Eun-chae. Her charm was probably the reason for this film becoming centered around a young woman in her twenties. As for the name Haewon, it just felt nice.
    - Jane Birkin appears in the beginning of the film. I’ve heard that you hadn’t really known who she was, or her daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg. Tell us how Jane Birkin came to appear in the film. 
    We were getting prepared to shoot when Jane Birkin came to Korea to do a concert. She had reached out to me and invited me to her concert. I didn’t know her very well at the time, but I believe she had heard about me from Isabelle Huppert. I told her that our first day of shooting was on the same day, and she said she would come to visit the set. and that she could even appear as a cameo if I would like. It was a fun and thoughtful gesture, so I asked her to appear in the film.
    - There is a scene in which Haewon says, “I’d sell my soul if I could be like Jane Birkin’s daughter” Was this line JEONG Eun-chae’s idea?
    When Jane Birkin was set to do a cameo in the film, I heard from the producer that JEONG Eun-chae was a great fan of her daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg. So I ended up writing a script like that on the morning of the shoot. It was chance.
    - Hae-won’s clothing and hairstyle in the film also extremely resemble the style of Charlotte Gainsbourg. Is this also a coincidence? I’ve been told that you personally attend to the styling of the characters in your films.
    It’s a coincidence. I just found clothes in JEONG Eun-chae’s own wardrobe that fit the character.
    - The appearances of Yeonju (YE Ji-won) and Jungshik (YU Jun-sang) is a pleasant treat for fans of  Hahaha (2010). This was the first time you had characters from your film reappear in another film. Is there a special reason for presenting the main character of  Hahaha again in Nobody’s Daughter Haewon?
    I felt the need for other characters around Haewon and cast YE Ji-won without much planning. Then I went to a crew member’s wedding before the shoot and met YU Jun-sang there. He said he had to be in this film. I joked and said, “Then you two could appear as the couple from Hahaha.” That joke came to mind as I wrote the script in the morning and that’s how it came to be. (Director HONG Sangsoo is known for this method of directing, in which he writes a day’s worth of the script every morning and shoots for each day of principal photography.)
    - The film is mainly set in the Seochon district of Seoul. The ‘store in Sajik-dong’ in this film resembles the significance of Tongyoung’s ‘Napoli Motel’ (in Haha ha) and the bar called ‘Novel’ (The Day He Arrives (2011)). It is sure to become another new tourist attraction for fans of your films. What made you place the story of this film in the Seochon area? 
    If the Han River serves as the dividing line between Seoul’s two districts, Gangbuk and Gangnam (north and south of the river), the northern Gangbuk area possesses different components than that of Gangnam. The Bukchon (‘North village’) neighborhood in the Gangbuk district was already used as the setting for The Day He Arrives. I happened to hear that the neighborhood around Sajik Park was known as ‘Seochon’ (‘West village’). I went to see the area because the common relationship between the names Bukchon and Seochon felt interesting to me. And when I was there, I found that it was a neighborhood in which I also had a few memories. That is why I decided to make the film in Seochon.
    - ‘Namhansanseong’ (South Han Mountain Fortress) appears as a symbolic place in Nobody’s Daughter Haewon. What made you grow interest in this particular place?
    From some point on, I became curious about how this fortress, these remains from the past are still intact and around us in this day. ‘That’s right. We used to live in this way, building up fortresses until not too long ago.’ So I went to see it and it was nice. It is not too steep to climb.
    - There are three particularly memorable scenes in the film, and they all take place at ‘Namhansanseong’. The first scene is of Haewon and Sungjun sitting on the steps. Soft sunlight seeps in from left of the frame in this scene. I think it might be the warmest scene in a HONG Sangsoo film. The second scene I recall is of Jungshik, Haewon, and Yeonju leaning against the stone rails. It’s an exquisite scene where the thick fog that settles in seems to speak for the rather delicate state of mind of the characters. The third scene is in the last part of the film in which we see Haewon and Sungjun sitting from behind. The image of Sungjun gently holding Haewon’s hand in his is full of a blueish air of early morning. Please tell us about your intentions in these three scenes and what was happening on set while shooting them.
    The scenes show the weather of the days when we shot them. Time passed as we continued to shoot, and so the sun set. At the time, I probably thought to myself that it was good that it happened so.
    - In the last part of the film, the scene in which Sungjun sobs in sorrow at ‘Namhansanseong’ was quite memorable. I felt that it was the first time in one of your films that the character’s emotions were presented so deeply and directly. But then the very next scene shows Haewon fast asleep, and I began to wonder if the previous scene was in fact a dream or reality.
    My past films also have moments where men and women cry. The last chapter you mentioned is a dream because she says so in her narration. But Haewon is still hunched over the desk and not yet awake from the dream, so it would be a contradiction for her to say, “When I woke up.” Whether it be an event within a dream or in the reality of a film, there is no difference in that the audience experiences this happening. If I present things as a dream, then the audience would soon accept it as a dream. But what they have actually experienced has the same weight and density as what I presented as ‘reality’. This is what once again might cause somewhat of a friction.
    - This film leaves a sad feeling in the viewer. When in one’s twenties, you feel excited and thrilled with all these new things around you, but you’re also scared and nervous at the same time. As such, we feel compassionate and sympathize even with her desires. I feel that you are viewing Haewon through the affectionate eyes of an adult. Perhaps that is why it feels like your most heartwarming film yet. Your world, or realm of film seems to be changing. From its previous almost contemptuous cynicism and laughter to plain contemplation, now it’s heading from contemplation to a certain kind of affection. How do you feel about these changes?
    I am thankful that you see it so. I’m sure I am changing as anyone is. It is difficult to explain in words what that change may be. But I believe my films reflect such changes.
    photographed by CHOI Jun-suk
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