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  • <In Another Country>, both pitiable and charming, the 13th film from director HONG Sangsoo
  • Jun 15, 2012

  • After watching <In Another Country>, I left the theater befuddled. Of all HONG's films, this one may be the easiest to watch, but after watching, could also be his most difficult. To gather some hints about the movie I hurled a variety of different questions at HONG, but given his characteristically short answers, my curiosity was left wanting. For those who will eventually see <In Another Country>, published here is this interview with HONG. It is presented with the hope that, like the film's lighthouse, it will help guide your understanding of the film.
     
    Q: As usual, the lyricism of your film's title stands out. How did you come up with the title <In Another Country>?
     
    A: I thought about it while shooting. The title of short story I had read a long time ago came to mind -- Hemingway's <In Another Country>. I couldn't remember what the story was about, but I thought the title was nice.
     
    Q: The characters in this movie speak English instead of their mother tongue. There is the lifeguard (YU Jun-sang), who fumbles with English, and other characters who speak it relatively well. But for this reason, I got the impression that the dialogue is quite concise, and by extension the film feels more generally concise or compact. Having written a script primarily in English for the first time, how did you feel watching the actors speak?
     
    A: Indeed, while making the film I considered the actors' limitations regarding English to be one of its more important features. While watching them speak English I found it both funny and endearing.
     
    Q: You shot <Oki's Movie> with a four-person staff. At that time the reason you gave for this was, "I thought I would get something different from my previous works if I worked under those conditions. I just wanted to try it." Working with foreign actors and a foreign language, there must have been some new experiences you savored while shooting.
     
    A: It took more time than usual to shoot in the morning. I'm not sure if it was because we were using English, but sometimes four or five hours would pass. While shooting, it felt similar to making other films, but in editing it took a lot of time before the film started to appear as a whole.
     
    Q: In the film's first segment, the lifeguard writes a song for Anne (Isabelle HUPPERT). Why a song, of all things?
     
    A: Well, YU Jun-sang brought a guitar with him when he came down to Mohang [the film's beachside setting]. He also brought a tent. He can play the guitar well and he also likes to sing, so it just seemed like a good idea.
     
    Q: Difference and repetition, these are the keywords that permeate your films. Your previous work, <The Day He Arrives>, revisits the same place three times. This time Anne appears as three different women. Each of the three Annes expose a very different quality or aspect. The first Anne appears tolerant and understanding, the second Anne is full of charm, and the third Anne is a bit of a moron. Another interesting aspect is each Anne’s preferences regarding swimming. The first Anne likes to swim and the second Anne hates it. And the third one likes it again. Did you happen to have a purpose with all of this?
     
    A: It seems that are certain elements in the movie, and I tune those. It's like I want my intentions to be exposed in this process of tuning.
     
    Q: Fundamentally, all of the film's segments interestingly make manifest the desires of one person (Won-ju). In other words, each of the three Annes are really just instances of Won-ju (JEONG Yu-mi). What kind of person do you think Won-ju was?
     
    A: It's hard to say…
     
    Q: In the seaside lodging where the film takes place, JEONG Yu-mi is called "the fairy of the guesthouse." What's the reason for that?
     
    A: She looked like one. I thought it was cute.
     
    Q: In the film's second segment Anne has two dreams. However, in the dreams Anne is made to be very lonely. When you watched the completed film, what kind of feeling did that give you?
     
    A: A bit pitiable, a bit charming.
     
    Q: Your actors have said the following, "We go to the set and we don't know what we will shoot. We're shooting and we don't know what is being shot. We finish shooting and we don't know what has been shot. But it's fun." As this was Isabelle HUPPERT's first time working with you, did she have to adjust to your method of filming? Were there any difficulties?
     
    A: It didn't seem like anything was particularly difficult. She said that it was fun, a valuable experience... a lot of nice things.
     
    Q: One thing that surprised me about this film is that there are no close-ups of Anne. If I were you, I think I would have wanted to subtly feature the close-up of 'the stranger's face,' ultimately revealing every little detail about the character. (Laughs).
     
    A: Well… using the close-up didn't really appeal to me.
     
    Q: While working together, what kind of actress was Isabelle HUPPERT? During the film's second segment, after she talks with the lifeguard on the beach we see her from behind as she skips over to Moon-soo (MOON Sung-keun), which made her appear both lovable and sympathetic. She was an actress that left a deep impression through her gestures and mannerisms.
     
    A: Adaptability, sensitivity, expressiveness, professionalism? Humaneness, durability, perceptiveness… I think she is an actress that has all of these.
     
    Q: This film went to the Festival de Cannes. What does going to a film festival mean to you?
     
    A: I go to a festival thinking it will somehow help me make my next film, meeting an audience whose tastes are aligned with my own work.
     
    Q: When <In Another Country> wrapped up, after an exhausting all-night shoot throughout which the staff hardly got a wink of sleep, you woke up around lunchtime, had some food, smoked a cigarette and astoundingly muttered something to yourself: "Ahh… I want to shoot a movie." Still, you want to make movies everyday.
     
    A: I have those kind of moments when the mood strikes me.
     
    Q: In a previous interview you said, "The moments when I'm shooting a film are the only moments in which I'm filled with curiosity about the world." While shooting <In Another Country>, I wonder to what extent you were filled with that curiosity toward the world.
     
    A: I can't say to what extent, but it was really great.
     
    Q: What are you most absorbed with these days?
     
    A: The wind over two trees in a grassy meadow, weeds in a flower garden, the water and boats of the Han River, cigarettes, cold medicine… these are the kind of things I've been focused on lately.
     
    Source : MOVIEWEEK  NO.532
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