One of the Korean independent film community's most remarkable young directors, Kim Kyung-mook made his feature debut with the unconventional "Faceless Things" (2005). He broadened his sights with "A Cheonggyecheon Dog" (2008) and has most recently been doing the film festival rounds with his third feature "Stateless Things". The film debuted at the Venice Film Festival's Orrizonti competition and is set to screen in the upcoming Rotterdam film festival's Spectrum section. The film is about people who have no place to stay. How did Kim come to take such an interest in these people? He met with "Korean Cinema Today" to tell us.
KOBIZ: How did you think up this film?
KIM: This film can be divided into a total of three parts. I thought up Part Three, which is the last scene, first. Of Part One and Two, the character of Part Two came to me first and then the character(s) of Part One came later. Part Two is also an extension of my debut film "Faceless Things". Before, my films mostly featured shutdown and frightened characters. I wanted to make a change and that's why I featured the character of Part One.
KOBIZ: The protagonist of Part One is a North Korean defector and the protagonist of Part Two is a young homosexual man.
KIM: They are both social minorities. Personally, when I was young, I once met a North Korean defector around my age. I was surprised to hear his story. He went around about 5,000 kilometers via India to come to South Korea. I remember I was surprised that someone my own age had had that kind of experience. The character in Part One was modeled on that person. On the other hand, the gay man in Part Two is an extension of the protagonist in "Faceless Things". What they both have in common is the fact that they don't really have any home to rest in. One is like that geographically and the other psychologically.
KOFIC: You've said Part Three is important. Why is that?
KIM: Because I thought of Part Three as a story where the boys each move forward a step further from their respective circumstances. The boys from the first two parts meet and that scene is the start of Part Three. I deliberately tried to portray Part Three in an abstract way. Of course, their encounter can also be an actual incident, but I wanted the way it was portrayed to look surreal. If you look closely, you'll find that the camera movement is somewhere in the middle of Part One's and Part Two's.
KOFIC: The cinematic format of Part One and Part Two contrast against each other.
KIM: It's true. I made this film thinking it is a film that follows the thesis-antithesis-synthesis structure. I wanted to make the elements of Parts One and Two transpose and conflict with one another. The movement of the camera is one of those [elements]. The character in Part One physically keeps moving. He has no place to rest geographically. The character of Part Two is not like that. It's not that he doesn't have a geographical home to rest in. He has a house. But he is trapped in the house he is living in. So he has no psychological abode. So if there's the motif of movement in Part One, there's the motif of 'coming out' in Part Two. Especially in Part Two, I kept in mind that 'coming out' means coming out of a closet. I remember trying hard to find a house that looked like a huge closet.
KOFIC: What kind of sense of accomplishment did you get after making this film?
KIM: Up until now, I've only been making films very much about things related to myself personally. I needed this film to take a step further in a kind of process - in terms of my actual life and also in terms of filmmaking. I hope to [continue to] move forward a step through having my personal interests coming in touch with certain social issues.
KOFIC: We heard you're preparing your next film.
KIM: I have an idea that came to me as I was editing "Stateless Things". It's a documentary. There's an area in Seoul called Youngdeungpo. It's a place where flashy ultramodern buildings mix with a red light district. It's a documentary in which the protagonists are the women who work there, and it's also about that strange place itself.
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2015 51st PaekSang Arts Awards