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Interview with LIM Yoo-ri, Director of Forest of Echoes, Invited to La Cinef of 77th Cannes Echoing the story

May 16, 2024
  • Source by KoBiz
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“Did Ogyeon walk and make her way to France? What is happening?” Relaying crew’s astonishment, Director LIM Yoo-ri expressed her excitement to be invited to Cannes Film Festival. 

Forest of Echoes (distributed by Indistory) is the first film to be directed by Lim who studies filmmaking in Korean National University of Arts. Set in the Joseon dynasty, her story features Ogyeon, who is chased by drunken men and escapes into the forest. There, she encounters Bangul, her neighbor, who married an old geezer a few years ago. Together, the two reveal a hidden secret. Forest of Echoes, a 22 minute-short film, was invited to La Cinef of Cannes, a section that screens young filmmaking students’ pieces. Forest of Echoes will be screened on 22nd. 

 

On green day in early May, we met Director Lim in Cine21 Studio. The fresh, now-starting, young director – born in 1998, is destroying her egg and making headway to the vast ocean in front of her. Just like Ogyeon from her tale. Below is her insight of the fantasy folktale she created.

 


Forest of Echoes Poster | (c) INDIESTORY

 

How did you start creating the tale?

One night, I had a dream. A mistreated girl in Hanbok runs to the forbidden forest. There she meets another being and she come backs to rediscover the meaning of her life. I told my mom about the story when I woke up. She was intrigued and encouraged me to write the screenplay.

 

Your dream became a film that echoes the female narrative, just like the title.

Director IM Sun-ae, (director of Ms. Apocalypse) who mentored me opened my eyes. “The echo in the title is very peculiar,” she said. “While the methods of oppressing women may have changed, the underlying distress remains unchanged. Therefore, a female narrative set in the Joseon dynasty might resonate with the current generation.” Her words emphasized the timeliness of the story. I trimmed the scenario to make the leading character more empowered so that everyone to empathize with the story. 

 

It was refreshing to see the Dokkaebi (also known as Korean goblin) myth unfolding as the subject matter. How did you decide to focus on Dokkaebi?

In my dream, it was just merely a supernatural being. As I focused on Echo, I thought that it wouldn’t be suspicious shapeshifter, but Dokkaebi, that lives harmoniously with humans. It was once a human being, but due to some incident, it turned into a Dokkaebi and can now only reside in this forest.

 


Forest of Echoes  | (c) INDIESTORY

 

This is a period drama. The fact that it’s set in Joseon dynasty emphasizes the female narrative. 

It’s hard to realistically unfold the problems in real life in drama. My favorite film is Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro. The story follows Spanish Civil War in a child’s point of view, and I was infatuated with the shrill reality from the viewpoint. That's why I enjoy fantasy and aspire to create more within the genre.

 

Around the midpoint of the movie, the women start Ganggangsullae (Korean traditional Women’s circle dance). How did you composite this scene?

One classmate read the scenario which only wrote “Dokkaebis start dancing,” and pitched this idea. I liked how this traditional dance conveyed the freedom from routine and a sense of unity as they hold hands. 

 

Are both leading actresses playing Bangul and Ogyeon from Korea National University of Arts? 

KIM Pyeong-hwa who played Bangul/Echo is an alumnus. I watched her play in school and was captivated by her. For Ogyeon’s role, we held an audition. I loved JEONG Eun-sun(the actress who plays Ogyeon)’s energy. I also liked how she interpreted Ogyeon as someone who is tired, drained, and fragile but still has the courage to move forward, not as someone who is furious and full of spite. 

 

Most of the story takes place at night in a forest. Wasn’t the production arduous? Where is the forest?

The forest, Seonghwanglim forest, is a natural monuement in Gangwon Province, not so far from Wonju. When there was a huge flood in Gangnam, Seoul, two years ago, we struggled in a battle against the mosquitos. We had to wear the long puffers that summer. We even survived without a cup of coffee. Still everyone said it was a fun production, to which I’m still grateful for. 

 

Does the Seonangdang (a holy rock piled shrine in Korean tradition) in the forest really exist?

It was there originally. According to some neighboring residents, the rites are still held. When we were filming all night in the cold forest, the residents visited the Seonangdang with corns and steamed buns. The crew and I whispered that this place really might be auspicious.

 


LIM Yoo-ri | (c) CINE21 Choi Sungyeol


You are also planning on making a feature film based on this universe you created. What would your feature film be focusing on? 

Right now, I think the story will unfold by juxtaposing the village of 500 years later and the same village 500 years ago when Echo, the dokkaebi was born. I also want to create the dancing scene in a grander manner. I want to create the scene where people dance in a festival in the village under the moonlight and yellow candlelight. 

 

A lot of elements for horror seem to be toned down.

They were. It was originally gorier. I didn’t want the audience to only remember eyeballs popping out when they left the theater. This movie started off with my aspiration to show that one scene – where Ogyeon leaves the big forest behind and steps forward. 

 

Then as the director, what would you like to tell the audience watching Forest of Echoes?

I considered including a scene where Ogyeon faces the ocean, taking a deep breath, rather than opting for something unsettling. However, I ultimately chose not to include a beach scene. Instead, I hope the audience will picture their own ocean. With that mental image, I want them to imagine where and how this little girl will find her happiness, and the type of beach she might be walking along.

 

Written by JUNG Sun Yeong

Translated by KIM Gyeong Yeon


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