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Ko - production in Busan
  • ALIVE Actor & Director : PARK Jung-Bum
  • by KIM June /  Oct 17, 2014
  • ALIVE Actor & Director : PARK Jung-Bum “Finding hope within everything”

    Where did you come up with the films motif?
    I had a friend that committed suicide. After the friend was gone, I was troubled and as I also have panic disorder I was fallen in the idea of what make us terrified and anxious.
    Why wasn’t I able to help my friend and how can I help myself were some of the questions I asked myself, then I came to a conclusion that humans should save humans. Although life can be dull, and although everyone may look like they’re leading different lives, finding
    hope within everything is what I wanted to focus on. Then the next idea I thought about is what are necessary for one to be alive, and
    can I really make a film about being alive. It was psychologically a very difficult film to shoot and the shooting itself felt like the film
    Alive. I kept questioning myself if I knew the answer to what I needed during the shoot and kept on going, looking for the non-existing
    perfect representation. But in the end, I think shooting film is never knowing what you exactly want.
    Alive is loaded with symbolisms. Could you expand on this?
    I think once we apply meaning to everyday materials, they begin to have significant meaning. To show them through film is to use mise-en-scene and to relate it to the narrative is creating a metaphor. As for the incubator, the protagonist eats the chicken but his sister becomes concerned with saving the eggs left behind, creating an irony. She opens the window for the eggs which in turn becomes an element that could have let the bean paste rot. Even though that wasn’t the case, the event leads to an unreasonable relationship between the rich and the poor. The rich makes excuses to hide the truth in order to fight for what they want, and everyone else ends up fighting each other without knowing the full story. The reflection of this relationship is represented by the rotting bean paste. What is ironic is that the owner of the factory and his daughter wanted the money to purchase a fancy TV to see the world more clearly. The incubator, the opened window, the door that was taken off then put back up, and the TV were some of the important symbols but none of them were clearly spoken for.
    You also acted in your films such as The Journals of Musan (2011) and Alive . Are you planning to star in your future works as well?
    I think I will act again in the future. The reason I act is because I want to become a part of the film and only if that is a possibility. If my existence in the film can overcome audience preferences and look natural in the film, that is when I will participate. However, commercial films need star power and it would make sense to cast someone more famous and better at acting than myself.
    You didn’t study film or filmmaking. How did you become a director?
    In short, I was influenced by director Kitano Takeshi. During my mandatory army service, I was asked to rent out R-rated video tapes while running an errand. But when I went to the video store, there was a soldier there so I was too scared to rent porn and decided to rent an action film instead. KITANO Takeshi’s Hanabi had a cover with someone holding a gun, and the tagline had the word violence in it. So I thought it’d be a good film to watch and took it back to our bunk, but everyone was disappointed and left the room. They scolded me and told me to write a review on the film. I watched it until everyone returned, and ended up replaying it twice, then three times and more. After watching it a few times, the more I saw it the more I realized how great the film was. I was curious about the director who used to be a comedian and felt encouraged that I too can be someone like him even though I studied physical education in university.
    When did you start making films in earnest?
    After being discharged from the army, I took a film course at school and the short that I directed won the first prize at a student film festival. The jury gave me a lot of support and I reshot the movie which was Templementary (2001). It won several awards at the Busan
    International Short Film Festival, and also went to the New York International Independent Film and Video Film Festival and more. I felt as if electricity went through my body as I saw the audiences stand up and applaud and that’s when I decided that I would continue to direct. However, I made 23 short films afterwards of which none of them were selected for film festivals. I wondered why and realized that I was trying to copy preexisting films instead of having my own color. With that realization, I made the 24th short, 125 JEON Seung-chul (2008) and with it I continued to make films that were more like me, including the feature The Journals of Musan (2010), and worked on LEE Changdong’s Poetry as assistant director, and finally this year’s Alive.
    The journals of Musan

    You always write the screenplay directly. Have you been writing for a long time?
    I went to Yonsei University for physical education, and when I took my electives, it was hard for me to follow. Then I decided to train myself so I went to the library every day during the breaks and practiced writing and read as many novels as possible. At the same
    time, I started to write daily journals which I continued for about two years. I don’t write journals anymore, but I still have the habit of
    noting ideas down and I think it helps greatly with writing.
    Would you be interested in working on a film that someone else wrote?
    I’d be very interested. I’m looking right now and if there’s something good, I’d love to work on it. I think if we can compare imagination
    to a room, I think film is something that narrows that room down. When people read a novel, there are many ways to imagine and draw the story, while animation makes that room for imagination a little bit smaller and film is almost reality. The process of narrowing that gap is the fun part of making a film. That’s why I’d be really interested in having an original story from a novel or poetry. The next project I’m working on with director LEE Chang-dong is based on a novel and I’m also about to work on a project with Myung Films where I got the inspiration from a series of poetry.
    Can you tell us about your next film?
    I read a series of poetry and was inspired to make a film. We’re currently working on the treatment and my goal is to shoot next summer.
    What would you like the non-Korean audiences to take from Alive?
    I hope that non-Korean audiences will receive the film the same way. There may be some curiosity around the bean paste or other technical elements but I would like the film itself to be the same for everyone, about the hardships of living.
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