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'Duelist' Tells of Love and Mystery in Choson Kingdom

2005/08/31 Source

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

Lee Myung-se, director of the 1999 hit action movie "Nowhere To Hide", is back with a period piece after a six-year hiatus. And it seems that the genre presents no problems for him to show off his unique filming style.

"I think there are some stereotyped images about period films. I didn't care much about historical research, but rather I tried to use my imagination," Lee said Tuesday during a news conference after the preview screening of his new film "Duelist" at Yongsan CGV theater in Seoul.

In the detective action film, many scenes were given a modern touch. Characters wear "hanbok," or traditional clothes, but they were modified in many ways. For example, they had more colors and some coat strings were placed at the backside of the costumes to make moving easier. Classic music is also often used in many scenes.

But Lee said that he was more concerned about how to depict the complicated emotions of the two main characters and the rhythmical movements of the action scenes.

"I want people to focus on the movements of the characters rather than the fighting action scenes. I tried to show their emotions and the film's story through their movements," Lee said.

Starring Ha Ji-won, Gang Dong-won and Ahn Sung-ki, the movie is based on a novel about a female detective in the Choson Kingdom.

Ha plays a tomboy detective named Nam-sun who investigates the forgery of coins but confronts inner conflicts as she falls in love with an assassin (Kang) involved in the crime while chasing him.

As the director put an emphasis on the rhythmical movements of characters, the main actors usually had to perform their own stunts, including the more dangerous ones. They recalled that the intensive physical training they had to go through, including learning to tango and learning martial arts, was the most difficult parts of filming.

"For me it was really hard to shoot scenes involving me sliding and jumping. Particularly, I can't jump, but as the director forced me to do so, I had to jump from a tree and wall," Ha said.

Ha previously played a policewoman in the popular period television drama "Tamo," which was also based on the same novel, but she said in the new film she and the director tried to create an entirely new character.

"The director helped me find my strengths while we discussed the personality of my character, which I think will also help me in my future films," Ha said.

With a production cost of 7.8 billion won, the shooting was mostly done in a huge outdoor set measuring 10,000 pyong (33,000 square meters) inside the Seoul Studio Complex in Namyangju, Kyonggi Province, which recreates a traditional market of the Choson Kingdom.

The film has already sold its Japanese distribution rights to the film importer Comstock at $5 million (5.1 billion won), the highest price paid for a South Korean movie ever. Comstock reportedly plans to release the film in Japan at the same time as it is released in Korea.

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