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Kim Go-eun, actress in Exhuma (Pa-myo)

Mar 27, 2024
  • Source by CINE21
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“I wanted to delve into the hearts of those who have embraced the divine.”



"In my entire career, I've never seen a score soar like this. It's truly surreal." On the third day of its release, the film's box office exceeded 1million, and the next day it surpassed 2million.(As of March 24, 10 million breakthrough - Editor's note) Kim Go-eun, an actress with over 10 films under her belt in her 11th year since her debut with Eungyo (2012), expressed her amazement at the unprecedented success of Exhuma (Pa-myo) at the beginning of the interview. Among young actresses of her generation, she stands out with the most striking expressiveness. In this latest work, she took on the role of a shaman, Hwa-rim. We could not find any trace of characters from her previous works such as the cute girl scrunching up her nose from Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, the first daughter of a poor family from Little Women, or an intelligence agent for the independence army in Hero. Instead, we encountered only the shaman wholeheartedly embraced the divine. We had the opportunity to meet her in person and delve into every aspect of the film Exhuma and her portrayal of Hwa-rim. 


KIM Go-eun



-Amidst the success, there is particularly intense interest in the relationship between Hwa-rim and Bong-gil (played by Lee Do-hyun). Was there more to the process of them becoming mentoring relationship in the script?

=Not exactly. According to the explanation provided by the director, Bong-gil, who used to be a college baseball player, came to me to become a shaman. He was suffering from an unspecified illness and sought refuge in the divine. Despite Hwa-rim's empathetic attempt to dissuade him, knowing how arduous the path was, she eventually performed the ritual for him since his determination was so strong. As a result, they developed a mentoring relationship.


-It was a topic amidst the film reviews that Hwa-rim, Bong-gil, Sang-deok (played by Choi Min-sik), Yeong-geun (played by Yoo Hae-jin), and other key characters share names with independence activists. The buzz also centers around Hwa-rim’s adoption of the trendy 'spiky bun' hairstyle, donning Converse sneakers, and employing a Marshall speaker during a shamanistic ritual involving animal sacrifice aimed at dispelling evil spirits.

= I was aware that the director chose character names based on independence activists' names as he mentioned it casually while we were during shooting. The idea for the spiky bun hairstyle came from the makeup director. They suggested trying something different from the typical ritual hairstyle, and I liked the idea. I thought Converse sneakers suited well for the dynamic dance of the ritual. While not entirely certain, I've heard that nowadays even shamans wear sneakers during rituals. As for the Marshall speaker... honestly, I didn't know it was there. (laughs)


-Let's revisit the beginning of the film when Hwa-rim said, 'I am Korean.' Initially, I dismissed it, thinking it was merely a facet of Hwa-rim's precise character. However, upon viewing the entire film, it became evident that her affirmation of being Korean, the first words of her character, is an act that permeates the film's overarching theme.

=While that scene may have resonated thematically with the audience, for me, it lingers in reality because it was the first scene I shot. Dressing and speaking like Hwa-rim felt awkward, and a notable sense of uncertainty persisted because I hadn't fully immersed myself in the character. I remember preparing for that scene with the thought of unique emotions that might arise when Koreans are mistaken for Japanese. One reason Hwa-rim is proficient in Japanese is that her mentor, who was a shaman had been active in Japan also, and she followed her to Japan from her infancy.


-The impressive aspect is the portrayal of Hwa-rim not as an elusive shaman but as a career-oriented individual with pride in her profession and a meticulous approach to self-management, much like a corporate worker.

=When I read the script, I strongly felt that each character lived their personal life with a strong sense of their respective professions, and the realism that emerged from it was appealing. I wanted to capture that essence. So, while portraying Hwa-rim, I paid attention to making her seem like someone who has the 'occupation' of being a shaman, caring for her work-life balance, and showing an interest in personal appearance typical of a young person. In terms of the external concept, I reflected a lot of reality. According to what I heard in concept meetings, nowadays, among young shamans, some are so well-dressed and drive such nice cars that you wouldn't know they are shamans unless they explicitly mention it. As for the language aspect related to Hwa-rim, I contributed ideas on speech patterns. In my opinion, Hwa-rim wouldn't necessarily use formal language consistently, even if the other person, like Sang-deok, is much older. So, I mixed informal and formal language in a way that wouldn't be too jarring to hear.


-The preparation process to become a shaman, how was it? It seems like you had an intensive practice routine, reminiscent of your time during the musical film Hero.

=After shooting Little Women, I had to transition to Pamyo within less than a month, so there wasn't much time to spare. Instead, during the drama break, I consistently visited the homes of shamans who were teaching me. Rather than focusing solely on technical skills, I used this time to listen to numerous stories about their lives. We shared meals, enjoyed coffee, briefly practiced playing the jing, learned spells, practiced movements, took a breath of fresh air, engaged in lengthy conversations, and then repeated this cycle. The more I listened to their stories, you know, the more I felt compelled to immerse myself in the lives of shamans. I wanted to grasp the shared feeling from experiences of individuals who, despite leading ordinary lives, found themselves intertwined with the divine and ended up living a life entirely distinct from their previous norm. Personally, I attended many shamanistic rituals. My close observation aimed to capture the unique movements they performed before entering the ritual, such as unconsciously swaying their bodies or carefully examining and feeling items before picking up tools. To witness rituals that were challenging to attend in person, I searched for videos. Even with the same movements, the feeling varied depending on performer, and each shaman possessed their own style. After confirming all these aspects, I was able to establish a direction to follow in my own style.


-How do you remember the shooting after the preparation for immersion? In scenes like the rituals involving the Daesal-gut and soul summoning, you portrayed not only a shaman but also took on roles of a dancer, athlete, singer, and various other artists.

=For the Daesal-gut scene, we rehearsed the day before and then entered the actual shoot the next day for half a day. Four veteran cinematographers each took a camera and independently captured the scenes, allowing me to focus solely on my performance. The sequence of whether to draw the knife from the thigh or from the cheek was predetermined, and my hair was left to flow naturally. During the scenes involving soul summoning, I experiences stress as I was concerned that reciting spells with the rhythm might look awkward. Even during the preparation, I felt quite anxious, so I memorized the entire spell from a recording provided by a young shaman teacher, from start to finish.


-After the harrowing events, each of the four characters copes with the aftermath and resumes their daily lives.

=Regardless of what happens, everything eventually passes. What matters most is the traces, the remnants left behind in that place. Nevertheless, life must go on. I believe Director Jang Jae-hyun incorporated the character’s lives after the incident into the film to convey that message. 


-The confirmed upcoming projects are director Lee Eon-hee's Love in the Big City and the Netflix series Two Women.

=Both works share a common theme of friendship. Love in the Big City has completed filming and is set to be released later this year. The film depicts the ‘Jae-hee’ chapter from Park Sang-young's serialized novel ‘Love in the Big City’. Two Women is currently amid filming, and it seems we'll have to wait until 2025 to see it. While there's a significant overarching theme that the story is running toward, I'd like to keep what that grand theme is as a secret.


Written by Lee Yoo-chae

Translation by Jang Yuri

Photograph courtesy of BH Entertainment

Link: http://cine21.com/news/view/?mag_id=104583

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