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Ko - production in Busan
  • WON Shin-yun, Director of THE SUSPECT
  • by LEE Yong-cheol /  Jan 06, 2014
  • "Something that action genre fans remember for a long time”
    Photo ⓒCine21 
    WON Shin-yun is back with The Suspect, a new work six years after his previous film. He was very busy in the mid 2000s with The Wig (2005), A Bloody Aria (2006) and 7 Days (2007) before moving away from the spotlight for a while. His latest work The Suspect is being praised for having opened up a new era of Korean action cinema and is currently doing well at the box office. He must have missed audiences, since his long awaited live action Robot Taekwon V project never made it to cameras. He looked happy and confident when he showed up for his interview with us.
    - With your films you have become well known as a genre film director.

    I am not sure if I have quite achieved that yet. I’d rather say that my film career and I are still in progress, so to speak. In Korean cinema it isn’t easy to make the film that you really want to make. The issue is, first of all, whether you can survive in this giant market. To do so, you just have to persevere. At some point you’ll be able to find your own place to settle.

    - Your projects often run into many difficulties. How do you endure and overcome them?
    While making The Wig and A Bloody Aria, I experienced something very different from the independent cinema scene. Every step in pre-production became a problem for me. With 7 Days, I finally learned how to balance between compromising and still doing what I wanted to do. Alas, my plan to make one film per year failed with Robot Taekwon V, and then I aimed for The Suspect. With 7 Days, I made a thriller based on speed, and I wanted The Suspect to show the extremities of action. Fortunately this time, there were few problems. As time went by, I learned to stick to my own plan and my own way of doing things.

    - This year, several films have depicted North Korea, including The Berlin File, Secretly Greatly, Red Family, and Commitment.
    As individual authors were writing scenarios, I don’t think they knew what others were up to. It is very interesting and even mysterious that their scenarios turned into all these films at a similar time and were released one after the other. Some have expressed that it is boring to keep seeing films on the North Korean issue, but I see it differently. You rarely see a film that really goes into the heart of North Korean life. Beyond a commercial genre film, you need to show a more truthful view of North Korea that audiences can really sympathize and identify with.

    - What were your ground rules to avoid unrealistic and fictitious elements when making this film about North Korea?
    The original scenario was quite different from the finished product. It was a well-written, succinct scenario, but I wanted to expand it and add my own themes and philosophy. The problem was the viability of the new character. I watched several documentaries to avoid artificially creating a character, and GONG Yoo, the main actor, as well as myself, conducted several interviews. I wanted to grasp the very roots of this sturdy character and we worked hard to achieve that.
    - The story is expressed more through motions rather than dialogues in this film.
    JI Dong-chul, the main character, was a very talkative person with a bright personality in the original scenario. However, I wanted to change it completely and eliminate most of his dialogue. I thought it would be much more effective for him if he expressed himself through action rather than speech. I especially wanted to convey his strong breathing and for the audience to see him from behind.
    - What did you see in GONG Yoo (who played in Silenced [2011] and Finding Mr.Destiny [2010]) for the role of JI Dong-chul?
    He is the type of actor who tries to communicate through acting. There are not many of them and GONG Yoo is definitely among that crowd. I especially liked him because he is not afraid of change. When an actor discards his old tricks and traits and shows a total transformation, the audience becomes curious and can derive pleasure from such a transformation. As soon as we began working together, I knew I was right. He is an actor, not just a star, and he is also a good person.

    - The intense structure sets it apart from other Korean thriller films.
    The common way of writing action film scenarios in Korean cinema is to position the events first and then weave them into a story. However, in adapting the original scenario, I positioned the characters first regardless of the action. Then when action scenes were positioned, which are made through conflicts between the characters, I wanted to push the action to its extreme, and make it really pop. I provided every character with a piece of the puzzle and I wanted the audience to complete the puzzle. However, as much as 50 minutes worth of shooting had to be left out, along with a lot of character detail. A huge chunk was lost, and that is something I am sorry for. 

    - The film is filled of dangerous action scenes. Did you come across any dangers while filming?
    Quite the contrary. Those were the kind of scenes where we laughed the most. It all depends on how hard you work on pre-production, as that makes a lot of difference. We did a lot of preparation, so the location shooting was pleasant and went very smoothly. Filming also benefited as the actors did a lot of research and finalized their characterizations at an early stage. 

    - The film becomes so intense, that towards the end, you can feel a little worn out by it.
    I had a desire to be different. I want the audience to remember this film as one for a big addition to the action genre. Therefore those who are only looking for a moderate level of action may find it hard to watch towards the end. I could have found a place to relieve the action but it wasn’t easy. I have constantly made very intense films, so sometimes I wish that one day I will be criticized for leaving too much blank space. (laughs)
    Photo ⓒCine21 

    By LEE Yong-cheol(Film Critic)
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