Showing Realities via Unrealistic Movies
- Your previous film reflect your cinematic world. Where and how do you get ideas for your films?
I hit on the idea for Circle Line
when I was waiting for someone at the platform of a subway station during an evening rush hour some ten years ago. At that time, I found a man reading a book on a bench. The man did not get on the train even when one arrived. Then I got an idea about the story of a laid off employee who spends all day in a subway station. In fact, like me, the man may have been waiting for someone. But at that time, I just assumed so as I had quit a middle school as a teacher several days before. (Laughs). At Dangsan Subway Station in Seoul, we can see subway trains come after running on a steel bridge over the Han River. I felt that the coming trains were living organisms. They looked like babies coming out.
- It takes a special imaginative power to bring up the image of a baby while seeing an incoming train. Passerby #3 is about the reality of a thirty-something woman hoping to become a filmmaker. Circle Line talks about the psychology of a father who lost his job. Both films reflect your strong imagination that expresses real problems through fantasies.
I want to talk about real issues such as the lives of ordinary people and personal matters and problems. But I love fantasies too. So whenever I think about new movies, these two naturally mix.
- Pluto criticizes college entrance-oriented public education. Jun (LEE Da-wit) is the hero who struggles to rank tenth in terms of test scores at school. Is the movie based on your experiences of working as a middle school teacher?
When I was a teacher, I thought of making a film about school. Public education began to give students of low-income families equal opportunities. But now, students can enter prestigious universities only when they obtain high scores in Korean, English and mathematics. When I was working as a middle school teacher, I found some students who were outstanding in certain sectors. One of them is a computer whiz kid who the principal asked to check and repair his computer when it was out of order. But the family of the student was poor, the relationship between his parents deteriorated and his mother suffered from a mental problem. So the student became rebellious. Such students became the prototype of the character called “Jun.”
- It is interesting as your criticism of public education is told as a murder mystery. Why did you choose the mystery genre?
The first draft of the scenario was a drama where Jun became a bad student after entering middle school, Yu-Jin (SUNG June
) dies and Jun enters the classroom with a bomb. I sent the scenario to several investors and asked for their opinions. Many of them said, “The story is good but it is hard to invest in the movie without revising the scenario.” In Korea, teen movies are usually either movies about growing pains or horror movies. So, I racked my brains to choose a genre for the film and decided to turn it into a mystery drama.
- Pluto also begins from a very real issue and develops into an extreme situation. Is it unrealistic for honor students to form a group called, “Rabbit Hunt” and tease and beat students that they hate in the film?
“Isn’t it too unrealistic?” asked SUNG June who was playing the role of Yu-jin asked me. “The world in a film reflects reality and does not need to perfectly realize it. However unrealistic a situation in a movie may be, the situation can seem realistic if audiences are convinced of it,” I answered.
- The themes of Passerby #3, Circle Line and Pluto are all different. You have interest in various things, right?
Pluto deals with boys. So, I would like to make a film about girls next time. I just have a basic idea about making a film about a woman in her thirties because I think women’s lives are not easy.
Photographed by CHOI Jun-suk