Kim Yun-seok had a successful career as a stage actor long before he started to appear in films and television. His big screen breakthrough was "Tazza: The High Rollers, with his acclaimed supporting performance as a ruthless gambler. This was followed by his leading role in Na Hong-jin's "The Chaser" (2008) as the morally ambiguous ex-cop-turned-pimp after a serial killer for which he won several awards. Kim has since become a star in South Korea, with notable performances in films such as "Running Turtle" (2009), "The Yellow Sea" (2010), "Punch" (2011), "The Thieves" (2012), "Hwayi : A Monster Boy" (2013), "Haemoo" (2014), "The Priests" (NYAFF 2016) and "1987: When the Day Comes" (NYAFF 2018 Star Asia Award). He challenged himself with his directorial debut, "Another Child".
On the occasion of "Another Child" (festival entry) screening at New York Asian Film Festival, we talked with him about women and their presentation in the film, the casting, the intense fighting scene and other topics.
The film focuses on women and shows much insight on female nature. How did you manage that being a man, and what kind of research did you do for the film?
A lot of conversations with my wife, my daughters, my colleagues, and also my co-writer, who is also a woman (Lee Bo-ram). I asked a lot of fellow directors about the subject matter. But I also want to say, that the characters in the film, before they are women, they are human beings first. I think it is important to approach them as such and that was my starting point.
What was the inspiration behind the film?
This was actually based on a play I have seen, and on that play, about 70% of it was allocated to the schoolgirls dealing with the situation, whereas in my film I made the roles of the adult women bigger, so, you pretty much watch the four women in the film in equal measure.
Your two young protagonists are excellent in their roles. How was the casting process for them and how did you guide them for their role?
I was adamant I wanted newcomers to play the roles of Yoon-ah and Joo-ri so I held auditions and out of the five hundred candidates, that is who we decided to have on the film (Park Se-jin and Kim Hye-joon). We sat together and had a lot of conversations before going into filming, so that we could get to know each other and develop the characters together. During the audition, it was really important for me to see how honest and communicative they were in the conversations and that was what we were looking for in the auditions. Also, I wanted to find actors that they did not really try to imitate established actors, but had their own voice, even if that meant that they were somewhat inexperienced. While working with them, yes they were some difficult times but I think it is always about finding the point where the character meets the actor. It is a continuing process of finding that point and that is how we went about the process.
Can you give us some details about the way you shot the fighting scene in the school? Do you think that violence can function as a kind of relief occasionally, for extreme situations?
Regarding the filming process for that, we rehearsed multiple times but the action choreographer, whom I have worked in many films like "The Chaser", "The Thieves" and "The Yellow Sea" (Oh Se-young) we really worked to make that scene seem unplanned and natural, although I do not know if it came across. We also used stunt people in that scene as well, so it wasn't dangerous for the actresses.
I would like to say that the physical fight they have in the film is more of a metaphor, not necessarily a comment on violence in schools or how kids deal with violence. For example, Joo-ri sees her mother barefoot and trying to deal with this incident without making it apparent, saying nonsensical things. Basically, the adults in the movie try to avoid this altogether and make it seem like if they turn their eyes away, all will disappear. On the other hand, the two girls really confront this head-on, through this physical fight, and I think this is an important metaphor about the difference in the way grown-ups and teenagers deal with things.
Dae-won is presented as weak, coward, and in essence useless, in contrary to the women characters. Why did you choose this approach?
I was actually not even interested in Dae-won as a character. Yes, he is the trigger of the film but it is never even explained why he cheats on his wife. Instead, the focus is on the four women who are affected by this incident and are left to deal with it. It is a matter of interpretation but I really wanted to focus on the life journey of the four women.
Interview by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Interview] Kim Yun-seok"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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