Director Sohn Young-sung has already been in the spotlight once before when he made his feature debut with "The Pit and The Pendulum" in 2008. This film, which was invited to Cannes Critics' Week, is the furthest kind of work from a genre film. So when we heard he had directed a proper courtroom thriller, we were curious about how this came about. Reporter JUNG Han Seok met with Sohn and asked him about how he started the project, selected the cast, and what it was like directing "The Client".
Q. I heard this was a project proposed by the production company Generation Blue Films and not with a script you wrote yourself?
A. When "The Pit and The Pendulum
" screened at the 2008 Busan International Film Festival, a producer from Generation Blue Films named SHIN Chang-gil approached me saying he was impressed with the film. He said he wanted to meet and hand over a script to me. That was the script for "The Client"
. It was a heavy package 130 pages long and it took me 8 hours just to read. The fact that it was a courtroom thriller was new, but to my surprise there were many structural similarities between it and "The Pit and The Pendulum
". That's how I decided to do it.
Q. Actor Ha Jung-woo's role is the largest out of the three main characters. What made you think he was right for the role?
A. When I met Ha Jung-woo
for the first time, I felt like we could talk to and understand each other. I also got the impression that he was intelligent and bright. He usually uses a model from existing films he's seen before when visualizing and creating a character. I was keen to find out who he would choose for his character in "The Client"
. He ended up weaving a mixture of personalities from Marlon Brando in , a character from , an American drama on Hollywood celebrity life, and also from a personal friend. And we both agreed that it was more important to emphasize unpredictability rather than try to follow the script to every detail.
Q. Ha Jung-woo's Attorney KANG is a fascinating character. What kind of process did you go through to create it?
A. There is a special story behind it. The final portrayal of Attorney Kang is very different from the original version that's in the script. I should say that I became more and more drawn in by the character Ha Jung-woo
was creating. The original character carried the image of an immature "youngest of the family". He'd burst out in anger at his assistant clerk, but was still cute at the same time. But in the completed film, he's more like an elder brother. Kangin
the movie knows he shouldn't be hot tempered as he can easily turn the atmosphere tense and serious. While we were shooting, I realized the character had to go in that different direction as I observed the way Ha Jung-woo
breathed, spoke and smelled. And the shoot became much more interesting. The original character that I had in my head was a jester who turned himself into a fool and made other people laugh and thus escaped responsibility from the case alone. But the character Ha Jung-woo
acted out was one who was not exempt from blame and who accepted everything with his entire being. In a word, it was much better.
Q. This being a proper courtroom thriller, what required the most special attention?
A. Ways of expression are rather limited for courtroom thrillers and dramas. The court is like a theatrical stage, which also resembles a miniature version of a part of human life. While the stage provides theatrical support to amplify cinematic tension, legal genres always end with the delivery of a verdict, and that can be a limitation. There aren't as many ways to reach an ending as one may like. If the Korean legal system were more supportive of the jury system, then there might be more potential ways to use your imagination. But rather than increasing the different ways of imagining things, I had to focus on increasing the intensity of the film. During the shoot, I only had to concentrate on whether the audience would be able to empathize with the situation or not. Being a courtroom thriller, it didn't require any other special filming techniques.
Q. Your films
"The Pit and The Pendulum
" and "The Client" both deal with mystery plots. In a way, you've proved your talent as a director in this area with your two films. Is this interest of yours temporary or will it last?
A. For the time being, I find that kind of plot interesting. I basically enjoy the mystery genre. I know that melodrama is also important for that, but I'm not so confident in that area. (laughs) I'm a rather dry person so I can see myself working on a different kind of mystery or an eye-opening and mystical piece rather than a melodrama. I haven't decided what kind of story to work on next. I could grow my expertise in creating movies that have a structure like , but then again, maybe not. I hadn't thought deeply about how to communicate with the audience with my previous film, but I learned a lot while directing "The Client"