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The Reality Aesthetics That Thrive in Spaces That Feel Lived-In

Aug 24, 2021
  • Writerby Flora Got Park (MOVIST Reporter)
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Waiting for Rain, the Precious Spaces of Those Who Value the Act of Waiting

Youngho (Kang Haneul) is worn out by her meaningless routine as she is about to take the college entrance exam for the third time. She decides to send a letter to an elementary school friend whom she lost contact with long time ago. Sohee (Chun Woohee) replies with kind words to a letter her sick older sister received. Waiting for Rain is a coming-of-age story about people who see value in waiting and being excited about their correspondence while they are carrying on with their lives. The places they live in are full to the brim with precious objects that show the patina of age.


Geulbeot Bookstore, where Sohee works. 


‘Geulbeot Bookstore, where Sohee works, boasts a collection of used books and old vinyl records. The exterior of the shop is in real life an empty shopping mall in Yeongdo District, Busan, whereas the interior was a set built for the film. Art director Kim Hyunok took good care to design the set so that it would fit the kind of staging Director Cho Jinmo had in mind. He said, “I wanted to simultaneously express the growing pains young people suffer when they experience setbacks and represent the moments the characters spend in a beautiful and brilliant way.” The shelves are crowded with books that may be old and torn but carefully organized, and vinyl records of hit songs of the '80s and '90s are cramming the display shelves.


Mandori Leather Workshop’, where Youngho’s father works. 


The place where Youngho is staying in Seoul is a house. The first floor of the house is used by Mandori Leather Workshop, where his father has been working for a long time. Since “it was hard to find a place that could represent the ambience of a workshop that has been used by the father for decades”, Producer Lee Jinsung used a low 2-story photo studio in Ibagu Street, Choryang Neighborhood, Busan and built the set inside. That's how he was able to create that quaint space where leather craft tools polished by years of use are neatly organized. The room on the second floor is the one Youngho shared with his older brother when he was young. Art director Kim Hyunok explained that the bunk bed and the two desks, which were made by their skillful father, still appear in the room, but he tried to express that some time has passed by negligently accumulating various props on them as if to represent that Youngho and grown distant from his brother.


Magazine Land,’ the used bookstore Sohee runs. 


Sohee, who has matured as she found closure after losing her family, opens 'Magazine Land,' a bookstore chockfull of travel magazines. Now that she stopped preparing for the college entrance exam and finally found out what she really wants to do, Youngho opens an umbrella workshop, Pitter-Patter. Changeui Store in Jungang Neighborhood, Busan was used as the location for Magazine Land, and an empty store in Yongsan District in Seoul became Changeui Store. Producer Lee Jinsung explained that both these locations perfectly captured the mood of Waiting for Rain.by exposing the lives of the two protagonists who have come of age while carrying memories in their hearts.


The Book of Fish, the Human Warmth That Exists in the Rugged Wilderness of Heuksan Island


Open Set, the House of the ‘Woman from Gageo


Heuksan Island, the place where Jeong Yakjeon was sent into exile, is so inhospitable it is called a ‘vicious island', just like many peaks on the Korean peninsula are referred to as ‘vicious mountains’. This is why, for the filming of The Book of Fish, Director Lee Joonik had to settle for Docho Island and Jaeun Island in Sinan County, South Jeolla Province, instead of filming on location on Heuksan Island. Producer Kim Sungchul shared that what made the decision difficult was that "Heuksan Island is made of rock faces and doesn’t have a lot of sandy beaches, so it just wasn’t suitable for all the on-set infrastructures. It would take two hours to reach the island by boat, and considering that it was summer, the peak typhoons season, it would have been a recipe for production delays."


Sul Kyungku, Byun Yohan and Lee Joonik are sitting in the open hall of the woman’s house. 


The house of the woman from Gageo (Lee Jeongeun) who looks after Jeong Yakjeon was found on Docho Island. When Director Lee Joonik and the staff discovered that hill overlooking the sea, this location captured so well the atmosphere of the film that they shouted in unison, 'This is it!'. Built as an open-air film set, that house was designed in such a way that from the high open hall, the camera could capture in equal measure the wide open, unobstructed views of the sea and the quiet and peaceful moonlight at night. Producer Kim Sungchul said, "In terms of historical accuracy, there may be some elements that diverge from the typical layout of an actual hanok, the Korean traditional house, but this gave us many cinematic scenes like the coastline that can be seen through that open space." He added that they chose this airy structure as they took into consideration that “the house might be blown away by a typhoon”.


The seaside of Ja-eun Island 


The house of ‘the woman from Gageo’ and the spacious front yard are the main spaces where everyone in Heuksan Island gathers, from Changdae (Byun Yohan) to Poongheon (Cha Soonbae) and Bokrye (Min Dohee), with Jeong Yakjeon as the central figure. It is also a harmonious place that Changdae and Bokrye chose for their wedding ceremony. Art director Lee Jaeseong explained the concept of this location, saying, "This is the place where live the poor inhabitants of Heuksan Island, Korean Peninsula’s most remote island, but I wanted to show the vitality of those who live there rather than portraying them as shabby and pathetic." The scenes set in Heuksan Port, where Yakjeon and Changdae have all kinds of discussions, were filmed on the beach of Ja-eun Island, Sinan County, South Jeolla Province. The director said he wanted to bring some warmth to the place by intentionally exaggerating the setting, showing for instance that it is rich in fish. This is why we can feel in The Book of Fish the warmth of the local people despite it taking as backdrop the rough landscape of Heuksan Island, 


HARD HIT, or The Paradox of Fears Transpiring in a Resort Town


Plaza in Haeundae Beach

Haeundae Beach in Busan, with its urban skyscrapers standing where the land and sea meet, is a place that evokes romanticism in tourists. However, HARD HIT runs counter to this romantic facet with a car chase across the city that creates tension and thrills. Seonggyu (Jo Woojin), the head of a bank branch who has been leading a luxurious life, puts his life on the line as he races to protect his daughter Hyein (Lee Jaein) and son Minjun (Kim Taeyul) in the back seats after someone installed a bomb into he car.


Gunam Road in Haeundae 


The climax of this race takes place on Gunam Road, Jung Neighborhood, in the district of Haeundae. The road connects Haeundae Station of the Busan Subway to the circular square located on the beach and is lined with various tourist facilities such as restaurants, cafes, and hotels. Director Kim Changju said, “Haeundae, which almost every Korean must have visited at least once, is a place where ultra-modern buildings are converging near the beautiful sea reflecting the sunlight. I wanted to explore the irony of the main character suffering extreme scare in this place while others see in it a touristic destination.” Making the most of this spatial irony, Seonggyu’s car speeds downs Gunam Road and through Haeundae Square and eventually forces its way onto the peaceful promenade in Dongbaek Island, “running at full speed as if it were a plane crossing the runway.”


Inside the car of HARD HIT, one of the main spaces of the movie. 


The inside of the car, one of the main settings in HARD HIT, is too narrow for movie cameras. But turning this shortcoming into an advantage, this limited space became instrumental in making the audience feel oppressed. The handheld shots in close-up captured the intense facial expressions of Jo Woojin and Lee Jaein, further increasing the density of the space. Meanwhile, the risks of explosion are also dramatically demonstrated outside the car. Director Kim Changju points out, "If the first explosion aimed at surprise, the second one was to instill a nervous suspense." The second explosion was filmed on the street near Jangsan Station in Jwa Neighborhood, in the busy commercial district of Haeundae. The director explained that he wanted to give the scene “a sense of credibilty”. He created a sense of urgency while running around the well-organized roads, where restaurants and shops are gathered, securing mobility and ‘inherently building tension by driving a car with a bomb in that busy place.’

Flora Got Park (MOVIST Reporter)


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