Ahead of his trip to the Rotterdam film festival's Tiger Award Competition, director Park Hong-min talks to KANG Byeong-jin about making the low-budget 3D feature
Director Park Hong-min
's "A Fish"
is about a professor who searches for his runaway wife. After tracing rumors, he learns that his wife is living in Jindo (an island 400km southwest of Seoul) as a possessed shaman. The film explores shamanism by taking viewers back and forth between the boundaries of reality and fantasy. It compares this life to the afterlife, and humans on land to souls in the sea. "A Fish"
was revealed to the world at the 16th Busan International Film Festival and has also been invited to compete at the 41st International Film Festival Rotterdam's annual Tiger Awards Competition. Director Park is now making final adjustments to the film's sound effects and computer graphics before he heads off to Rotterdam.
KCT: "A Fish" deals with Jindo's 'shitgimgoot' (a shaman ritual for cleansing a dead person's soul). What made you decide to make a film dealing with this?
Park: I was curious about the concept of a medium falling into a trance, being possessed by a spirit. A person never becomes a medium because they wanted to. I had unanswered questions about what it is exactly that possesses you and what kind of person it happens to. I started to think that the concerns of a person who became a medium would not be very different from the concerns I hadregarding my life. I contemplated how to turn this into a film, and I think that's how the mystery genre came out. The idea finally materialized when I witnessed a shaman ritual that fished out a real person that had drowned to death. The family and relatives of the dead man took in his spirit, and were acting like him until the ritual was over. I thought if this is really true, it would be interesting to tell a story about the emotions of the character whose soul was in these people.
KCT: Did you havea conceptual idea of how you wanted to portray the island?
Park: I'm not sure if the viewers noticed, but I did have a concept in mind. There is an island called Jujido in Jindo. It is shaped like a finger, and it appears in most ofthe scenes from beginning to end. I wanted to create afeeling that Jindo, the place, was observing the shaman and the people. I wanted to personify Jindo, and I used Jujido to do that.
KCT: What did you expect to achieve by linking mystery, shitgimgutand 3D together in one film?
Park: People usually think 3D is more realistic and spectacular. But for me, 3D creates a sense ofunfamiliarity and discomfort. Rather than making a film more realistic, 3D seems to distort and exaggerate the way things really are. And since it tries to control your gaze, there's a certain violence about it. I thought I could apply these feelings to this film in a favorable way. "A Fish"
is a story that crosses between reality and fantasy. And the main character is isolated. He is both alive and dead at the same time. I felt I could use 3D effects to visually express him as a person estranged from his surroundings.
KCT: 3D is known to be complicated and expensive. It must have been difficult to apply it in a low-budget film like "A Fish". How did you come up with the production costs and equipment?
Park: I received about KW45 million won (about US$39,000) and a 3D camera from Dong-ah Institute of Media and Arts which I attended. I managed to make the film with a total of KW70 million (about US$ 61,000) by putting together my own savings and help from people around me. The camera is no doubt the most important thing when you're preparing a 3D movie. I testedvariousoptionsuntil I finally picked thePanasonic 3DA1. Actually, this model is not used often.It has excellent mobility because it consists of a solo body with two lenses, but it requires careful lighting settings because of its small lenses. Also, you can't adjust the distance between the lenses, nor is the picture quality perfect. But "A Fish"
needed to shoot on boats and in the mountains.From the aspect of mobility, this camera was the answer.
KCT: How did you do the post-production?
Park: I had studied 3D attending conferences from 2009, and I had an idea that I could do a certain amounton the computer I had. Everyone seemed to be overly exaggerating how difficult it was. Of course, when I got to it, it wasn't easy. I received a lot of help on sound effects, computer graphics and compositing, but I did the final editing myself and dealt with issues as they popped up. It took me about nine months to make the final version, and I am still readjusting the sound. Looking back, 3D requires a lot of work but if you study and put time into it, it isn't something you can't handle.
KCT:What are you preparing for your next film?
Park: I've been preparing it for four months now.It is about a character in his twenties who has gotten intoa pyramid scheme. I found the structure and relationshipsinteresting. It may not look very different from the powerhierarchyat a highschool, but because there's money going back and forth, it's a bit more refined. It's [about] a group of young people who get together to accomplish something, but it's actually like they are on an island isolated in the middle of a city. I'm working on creating a mystery suspense film based on the stories that happen within the group. Of course, it wouldn't go with 3D at all.
KCT: "A Fish" has been officially invited to the 41st International Film Festival Rotterdam's Tiger Awards Competition. And it is the first 3D film to be invited to the competition.
Park: I am so happy. Initially, when I was making the film, I had a great fear I would not be able to show this film to an audience. But everything has changed really in a matter of months. When I heard the news from Rotterdam, I was surprised before I was happy. I'm curious as to how the audience there will look at the film. I hope we can share a lot of talks about it.