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ANOTHER CHILD Director KIM Yun-seok

Apr 29, 2019
  • Writerby SONG Soon-jin
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“I wanted to make films focused on characters and drama”

Actor KIM Yun-seok, who has headlined big screen titles such as The Big Swindle, The Yellow Sea and Dark Figure of Crime, is back with his long-in-gestation directing debut Another Child. Against all expectations, his first film behind the camera is transparent and delicate like a newborn baby. The film follows the chaos experienced by four women and a man as an impending birth causes a familial crisis. Ju-ri and Yun-ah, who attend the same school, plunge into confusion after they discover that their parents have been having an affair and that it produced a child. Ju-ri’s mom, Yeong-ju, gets wind of the whole situation and visits Yu-na’s mom, Mi-hee, only to make the situation even worse. We reached out to KIM Yun-seok, who has delivered his film like one would a baby, to tell us the story of his project before its birth.

When we think of KIM Yun-seok the actor, Another Child is not the kind of work we would expect. I could not have guessed you would release a movie led by four female protagonists. Was it because you had the intention of telling women’s stories?
I should first talk about the play on which the movie is based. I had spent a lot of time thinking about my directing debut when I suddenly came upon the play Cowboy on the Roof from LEE Bo-ram at a preview. It was there that a man and a woman went up to the stage, without any set at all, and gave a preview of a part of the play. The moment I saw that, I knew it was everything I wanted. For my debut, I wanted to do a film focused on characters and the drama, and this was exactly that kind of work. And so we decided with LEE Bo-ram to make a screenplay adaptation of the play, and we started working on it in December 2014. I wanted to go into more detail about the stories of women. Since the playwright as well as the actors are women and the filming crew was also predominantly female, I could ask them anything about the psychology (of the characters).

Despite the extremely serious situation, there are several funny scenes.
I needed a black comedy. If I had gone for a heavy atmosphere, it would have made the story unbearable to watch for a long period of time. The scene of the original play I saw as a preview was the one in which Ju-ri and Yun-a meet on the rooftop, and the two have this dialogue: “You know [that the two are having an affair]? / How could I not? She’s knocked up.” This scene was the part that fascinated me. So when I was holding auditions for the roles of Ju-ri and Yun-a, I asked them to play this scene as well. The characters have sharply diverging stances on the matter, and since it is a grown-up conversation between kids, there was a feeling of clear and lucid strength without any sense of nastiness. It was even funny. I thought that such strength had to be carried over and define the general tone of the movie. Even so, comedy isn’t what I tried to show in the movie. Comedy is something that helped me clearly represent people who face a situation and those who look away, and to make this difficult story a little bit easier to follow.

The title (“Underage” in Korean) has a lot of symbolism. What was the intended meaning?
It’s the short version of “We are all underage”. Being an adult is not something we can demonstrate in a concrete way with a license like we do for our driving ability. There are also people who are regressing as they get older. So we have to work at it constantly. I wanted to capture this theme.

Another Child is a film whose big draw is the impressive individual skills of each member of its varied cast. How did you communicate with them, with your position as a director and actor?
They only needed to be given the mood and they could do everything, so I didn’t have anything to add. I also approached it as a fellow actor. I even told them they could change their lines as long as the meaning wouldn’t change. That’s the only thing that could set apart the clumsy, neophyte director that I am. Fortunately it’s not a large-scale production and the story is focused on four people, so that was achievable. And also, thanks to the fact that I come from the theatre and I’ve known for a long time stage actors who play supporting parts, I had a wider choice for the casting.

On the other hand, there are a lot of scenes in which Dae-won, which you play, is shown from the back or out of focus.
One scene that gives a good view of Dae-won’s face is when Ju-ri follows her father. Beyond that, he is always shown from behind or the side, or the focus is on the people Dae-won meet. To that extend, he is a character who plays a functional role. I didn’t even want to know why Dae-won is going around causing such trouble. I wasn’t even the least bit curious about what is going on in his mind. (laughs) If Dae-won was too effective in inducing anger in the viewers, this would have instead tainted the scenes where the four protagonists appear. As I was going through several ideas, I suddenly turned Dae-won into a loser. Trying to play a loser was a first for me.

Was there any difficulty filming this movie?
I spent 4 years in the staging department of Hakchon Theatre, so the “staging” job didn’t seem like a distant world to me. It’s just that in film you have to apply cinematographic mechanisms, and in that regard, I felt like I needed to study, but the film crew helped me a lot. 

If there was one scene you put the most work in?
That would be the scene in which Ju-ri and Yun-a meet “Ugly”, the child born from the liaison of Dae-won and Mi-hee. “Ugly” is inside an incubator, and there is nothing else in the background. The film crew sought medical counsel and created a dummy of 25-28 centimeter, which corresponds to 5-6 months (of pregnancy), and we put a lot of effort in the shooting which involved some CG. The fact that the people who are in communion with “Ugly” are Ju-ri and Yun-ae is extremely important in the film, so I was careful when I filmed this scene.

Do you have any fascinating anecdote regarding your work as an actor or as a director on this film?
I like movies that only have drama and characters. I believe that such movies in the end have a long life. For instance, films like The Shawshank Redemption are still enjoyable after watching them ten times. Even though I like these movies, I still played in a lot of genre movies since I had to make a living. As film directors mostly ask for powerful characters, you have to know how to do this kind of acting too. However, I heard people who know me from my previous works say after watching Another Child that it was “KIM Yun-seok-ish”. The general audience has never seen me like this so they must have been surprised. (laughs)

What kind of recognition would you like to get as a director?
Instead of getting praises for my work, I wish LEE Bo-ram would receive a screenplay award for this film. And I wish these two actors, KIM Hye-jun and PARK Se-jin, who embodied the difficult characters of Ju-ri and Yun-a, would receive a lot of praise and dominate the acting awards. The reviews on the movie, I want to read them quietly, when nobody is around, after the theatrical run is over. (laughs)
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