If your life was exactly the same as someone else's from the past, what would you do? Is it a blessing or a curse -- without having to ride a time machine back in time -- to be able to know what your future holds for you by looking at someone else's life? The film "Parallel Life" begins with an anecdote about U.S. presidents Lincoln and Kennedy. Like the two presidents who lived very similar lives but existed 100 years apart, character Kim Seok-hyun (played by Ji Jin-hee) -- who is the youngest person to be appointed chief prosecuting attorney -- becomes increasingly aware that he is caught up in the whirlwind of the parallel theory. Every circumstance surrounding him runs exactly the same as they did for judge Han Sang-joon, whose entire family was murdered thirty years ago, and hence begins the mind games of Kim Seok-hyun who tries to protect his family.
Scenes from the film "Parallel Life"
The film, with its fast, speedy editing and stories that stir up confusion under the major pretext of the parallel theory, pours its energy to the film's ending where everything will be turned over. Hence the road heading toward the ending will be as open and straight as an autobahn, but the characters are not depicted clearly enough -- except for Kim Seok-hyun-- since they only serve as convenient tools for the twist at the end. However, if you do not raise too many objections against the parallel theory, which seems loose at first glance, and you let yourself ride with the flow of the movie, you will be able to witness the full account of a story which is somewhat familiar yet shocking. "Parallel Life" opens in theaters on February 18. Below is an excerpt from the press conference, held after the press screening Wednesday.
Q: In reference to the parallel theory which controls the entire movie, do you believe in fate or do you believe that you make your own destiny?
Director Kwon Ho-young (Kwon): The movie started with the question, "If you could know what your future holds for you using the parallel theory, would you be able to do something about what happens to you next?" I guess you could pave your destiny with your will but I don't think it's that easy to do. In the past, many of the movies I had been preparing to make got flopped and what I learned is that there are times when things just don't work out, no matter how hard you try. And there are also times when I rather let myself go, the movie will get started comparatively easily. So I personally believe in going with the flow and following destiny, which I think has been reflected into the movie.
Ji Jin-hee (Ji): I heard about the parallel theory between Kennedy and Lincoln before shooting "Parallel Life" and it was very interesting and made me think about many things. I had even concluded that coming up with such theory was possible because Kennedy and Lincoln were so famous that there were many grounds for comparison. If someone ordinary like me had lived a life identical to someone else's thirty years ago, nobody would know about it. (laugh) But I thought destiny does exist to a certain extent while shooting the film.
Lee Jong-hyuk (Lee): I don't really believe in destiny. I don't have my fortune told or go see a psychic when the new year comes around. But if I ever encounter such evidence like in the movie, I think I might get caught up in that situation like the main character does.
Actor Ji Jin-hee [Lee Jin-hyuk/10Asia]
Q: In case of Ji Jin-hee, you had many action scenes even though you played a judge. Wasn't it difficult?
Ji: It was easy because I had previously worked on a hard-boiled action movie called "Soo", which was all action, from beginning to end. (laugh) The staff around me were very worried but I had fun shooting the film.
Kwon: The martial arts director also said that Ji Jin-hee had a better body than other members on the martial arts teams. He has a physique that is fit for action scenes. He did all the driving for the car chasing scenes and every other scene related to cars. It takes one little mistake to cause an accident even with the entire martial arts team guarding you, but he did really well.
Ji: What was hard were the various emotional scenes. I worried about how to express the emotional changes my character goes through, who at first doesn't believe in fate but reaches a point where he needs to believe in it. Fortunately, I was able to solve that problem by doing script readings and having a lot of conversations with the director two months prior to the shooting.
Q: There is hardly a scene with a female in it. What was it like being on a set full of men?
Ji: You might think the atmosphere would be formal since only guys are around but it was fun because we all had similar hobbies and were around the same age. And of course, we would drink, go on hikes and talk to each other a lot before going into shoot. Those sort of pre-production activities helped a lot to the filming because we didn't waste any energy during the real shootings, reduced our takes and saved on production costs. (laugh) I was very entertained and happy throughout the shoot.
Kwon: Ji Jin-hee and Lee Jong-hyuk are members of [celebrity baseball club] Play Boys so they often played catch during breaks, and we had a very good atmosphere.
Q: I heard Ji Jin-hee had a big influence in casting Ha Jung-woo as the murder suspect.
Ji: I felt very sorry to Ha Jung-woo because it was his third time playing a killer and he told me people were scared of him. (laugh) But I couldn't think of anyone else other than him, so I persuaded him by saying "You don't have to do it but no one else can play the part". And that is when he told me if he does this movie, I would have to appear in one that he does later on. That is how the deal was made. Ha Jung-woo looks like a murderer just the way he is (laugh) but he grew out his hair, wore braces on his teeth and put on contacts. I was grateful that he put in the effort to create a different character.
Actor Lee Jong-hyuk [Lee Jin-hyuk/10Asia]
Q: You have long been known for your soft, good-guy image but your appearance in "Parallel Life" seems to break that mold to some extent.
Ji: The so-called soft image is one that has been shown through television. TV is a media that is viewed by the entire family so it is only natural that many of the roles I play will be good guys. I have played opposite type of roles in movies before but they were the kind that only manias would like, not commercial, so I think many people still associate me with the good-guy image. But "Parallel Life" is a film with a lot of potential for commercial success. It doesn't matter whether you like thriller films or whether you believe in destiny. I think it is a film that everyone can enjoy watching.
Q: "Parallel Life" emphasizes the paternal love of judge Kim Seok-hyun. What kind of a father are you to your son?
Ji: Um... I'm not sure about children. (laugh) I thought about this after I had a child, but I don't think a child is really mine, or my possession. I prefer to think of him as someone who came through me and my wife -- an equal human being who is living this life and time with me. Other people might say this is wrong though. (laugh)
Q: "Avatar" is still strong on the local box office and many Korean films are opening, one after another. What is the strength of "Parallel Life", compared to other movies?
Kwon: I would say that it has a differentiated subject. It is not easy to make a movie in Korea with a fantasy-based subject like this and difficult to get investors too. Of course, it is hard to create a good story but what I liked was that although this was a story that Hollywood should have made a long time ago, we did it first. I did the music work for the film in the U.S. and when I told people about "Parallel Life", everyone thought it was interesting. People in the film industry overseas have a lot of interest in the parallel theory too. I think what differentiates this film from other Korean movies is that it has the fantasy element to it.
Director Kwon Young-ho [Lee Jin-hyuk/10Asia]
Q: How do you want the audience to feel after watching the film?
Kwon: They could think, "Ah, destiny is something that you should just accept as it is", or "This is nonsense" but I want them to think that it was all just a fun story in a film. A movie is just a movie.
Ji: I think what director Kwon Young-ho said is right. And there are many elements in the film so you can look at them from your own circumstances. If your focus is on the child, you can think "They must save the child" and if you focus on destiny, you can look at it as "I have to stop destiny".
Lee: I want the audience to feel uncomfortable after watching the movie, thinking about stuff like, should I accept my destiny or create it, or is there a parallel theory working in my life? (laugh)
Q: Then was there a moment in your life when you felt, "Oh, this must be fate"?
Ji: I got involved in big traffic accident several years ago. My car got completely crushed by three dump trucks but I was perfectly fine, didn't even get a scratch, and I thought maybe it wasn't my time to die yet. And this thought just occurred to me now but ten years ago, I shot a movie called "H" and now I've shot a thriller film called "Parallel Life". After "H", I appeared in "Dae Jang Geum" and after "Parallel Life", I'm going to start working on "Dong Yi", which is also directed by Lee Byeong-hoon [who produced "Dae Jang Geum"]. And after "Dae Jang Geum", I did a comedy film called "Bewitching Attraction" and this time a comedy movie called "Men Who Left Home" is going to open after I work on "Dong Yi". Isn't this repetition also fate? (laugh)
Lee: Wow, you must have done a lot of work with all that repetition. (laugh) I don't really believe in fate but I think it was fate that I got into college as a theater/film major the final year before the college entrance examinations changed to the current system. (audience bursts into laughter) Um.. I truly believe that and it is also fate that I met my wife. But I think it is right to say that you make your own destiny. Everyone, it is important to create your destiny!
Ji: This is why we had fun on the set. (laugh)
From left, actor Lee Jong-hyuk, director Kwon Young-ho and actor Ji Jin-hee pose during a photo session of a press screening for film "Parallel Life" held at a CJ CGV theater in Seoul, South Korea on February 3, 2010.
Actor Ji Jin-hee [Lee Jin-hyuk/10Asia]
Actor Lee Jong-hyuk [Lee Jin-hyuk/10Asia]
Reporter : Lee Ji-Hye email@example.com
Photographer : Lee Jin-hyuk firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor : Lynn Kim email@example.com
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53rd Baeksang Arts Awards 2017