Zoom in on Society Through a Director’s Eyes
There is no trace of a new director's typically excessive passion or over-reaching in the film Don’t Cry Mommy
. KIM Yong-han
concentrated on telling ‘what he had to tell’ in his debut film.
- I heard Don’t Cry Mommy is based on a real story.
The ‘KIM Bu-nam Case’ happened in 1991. The culprit KIM, who was 30 years old at that time, murdered a man in his 50s. It was found out later that it was in fact a act of revenge taken by a woman 21 years following she her rape at the age of 9. The truth was massively shocking. I still clearly remember what she said. “I murdered a beast, not a man.” It was too intense for me to forget. That made me decide to make a film about sexual assault when I become a director.
- Was there any definite motif while you were creating the story?
No, there wasn’t. Though I did watch a documentary about the family of a victim when I was collecting data related to sexual assault cases. In the film was an interview with a woman whose daughter had been sexually assaulted. What really shocked me was that she suggested to her daughter that she hide the truth even though the mother knew the victim was raped by her cousin. The girl committed suicide in the end. The mom realized how much pain her daughter had to go through only when she read her daughter’s diary following her death. Then it occurred to me that victims deal with the pain all by themselves without letting detectives, prosecutors and even their family know about it. So I started with a story seen from the victim’s point of view.
- I also heard that you interviewed both culprits and victims and conducted a lot of research.
It’s a film about a sexual assault, I thought it was important to meet actual perpetrators and victims. While gathering information, I confirmed how indifferently sexual assaults are treated at school. I also looked into many judicial precedents and learned that young perpetrators usually receive verdicts of not guilty. In other words, victims are not protected while perpetrators have no sense of guilt. The reality is so cruel.
- Yu-rim (YU Sun) is determined to take revenge when her daughter Eun-a (NAM Bo-ra) kills herself. Yet her plan doesn’t seem sophisticated or bold.
Punishment for sexual assault between students are often very weak or sometimes the perpetrator is even found not guilty. I thought this is what causes a dilemma. Because the law forgives the culprits it doesn’t mean that the victims forgive them as well. Instead of making a simple revenge story, I wanted to show how painful it is for the victim through her mother’s point of view. Because a mother is someone who knows the preciousness of life very well, so I thought it would also be hard for her to punish the perpetrator in an extreme way. I figured that it would make a good film as long as the emotions and drama were solid enough.
- There were many close-ups of Yu-rim in static scenes. Was it because you intented to focus on the emotions of the character?
You're right. I saw Yu-rim’s developing psychology and emotions until she makes up her mind to avenge her daughter as the core drama of the film. So I took a lot of static shots of Yu-rim. Capturing her sitting still in the camera was strong enough to form the drama. Early in the film there is a scene where Yu-rim is diagnosed with a uterine cancer. The actor who plays the doctor in front of her kept on making mistakes and I asked him why. He answered, “When I looked inot her eyes, I couldn’t speak my lines.” It clearly shows that YU Sun is overwhelming when immersed in her emotions.
- You probably didn’t need to give specific directions for her acting then.
I don’t remember giving a single direction for her acting during the entire shooting. New directors are usually so passionate that they prepare a lot of continuity. I believe it explains a lot when I say that I threw awat my continuities during filming. At least 95% of the scenes that YU Sun performed in were first takes. She truly depends on her instinct when acting.
- NAM Bo-ra acted as a high school girl who is brutally raped and commits suicide. How did you direct her acting?
I gave her explicit directions. When she and the actors performing the perpetrators were sitting next to each other to shoot the scene at the court, I asked her a rough question saying, “Imagine they got inside your body. what would it feel like?” The shooting had to be paused for a short while because she ran away as soon as she heard it. She came back later saying, “I felt as if I had really been a victim.” She experienced the panic.
- Do you suppose it is the duty of a director to raise a pertinent issue in society?
I think there are different types of artists. In my personal opinion, a director needs the attitude to speak out about problems that society currently faces. It doesn’t necessarily mean he has to make political films. We can always zoom in on social issues through a film with a director’s perspective.
- What was the ultimate message you wanted to say in Don’t Cry Mommy?
Near the end, YU Sun says, “What would you have done if you had been in my situation?” It was also the provocative question that I wanted to ask the audience. No to mention the need to tighten punishments for underage sexual criminals, the protection system for victims and their family is also far too weak. They are not properly protected after their ordeals, and this causes avicious circle. I hope this film can ring the alarm at least to the smallest extent.
Photograph by HWANG Jin-yong