Park Chan Wook BAFTA Screenwriting Lecture London East Asia Film Festival 2016. As part of the 1st London East Asia Film Festival, a Screenwriting lecture was given by South Korean Director Park Chan Wook at the BFI Southbank. The lecture, and the Questions and Answers session was followed by the screening of Park Chan Wook’s short film Night Fishing, which was co-directed by his brother Park Chan Kyong, and was made under the banner of PARKing CHANce. This short film was shot entirely on Iphone 4. After the screening of the short film, this is what the director had to say:
Night Fishing. Image: KT Corp.
‘It’s been a long time since I last watched this film. Today I watched it with a more objective pair of eyes and it somehow makes it look better than when i first watched it. I co-directed this film with my brother Park Chan Kyong which was a blessing for us both because back in our university days, I had suggested to him that we should make films together. At that time he declined and went on to study arts, but somehow that interest in film making stayed with him and he came back to me. That is when we made this short film.
The short film ‘Night Fishing‘ deals with the topic of Shamanism. I was never interested in the Korean belief of Shamanism, but as an artist this topic intrigued me and my brother always had an interest in it so we went on to take the first steps to make it. I watched some documentaries on this Korean belief so that I could learn more about it. The part in the short film where the Shaman tears the cloth is a metaphorical action which indicated in giving the deceased person’s soul a sense of comfort and a guidance towards the after life. The Shaman herself represents the soul of the deceased person and the rice grains being thrown on the cloth are the sustenance which it needs to take along on a very long journey. The cutting through of the cloth by the Shaman to me was the most climactic moment of the ritual. This awakened in me the Korean sensibility that had remained dormant in my conscious. The entire ritual leads in believing that the deceased person has been sent on to the next world, while the ones in this world still need to move on with their daily lives. After watching this film today, I have realised what art should really be, and with this I will take it with me in going on to make my next film.
After talking about his short film, the event went on to the Question and Answer session.
Question: ‘Night Fishing‘ is a remarkable film which was featured in 2011 Berlin Film Festival where it was awarded the Golden Bear for the Best Short. In 2012 you made another short film called ‘Day Trip‘ with your brother. It is about a young girl who doesn’t win a Pansori competition and thus goes on to a hill with her teacher to the mountains where she rehearses her singing. This film also has very spiritual elements in it. Would you like to share with us how you along with your brother developed this film?
Park Chan Wook: The origin of the team name ‘PARKing CHANce‘ comes actually from our names. We both have share the same syllables of our family name PARK along with our first names which is CHAN. The idea of our team is to make films in any way possible with new styles and techniques included. This lead us to make the two short films along with a documentary and a music video. My younger brother is very much into traditional Korean culture and it has also had an impact on me because I got to learn a lot about ourselves. This helped us both in expressing our traditions cinematically.
As our parents were both Catholics we were raised as ones too. We went to a Catholic high school and would also attend the church every Sunday. Although I am an atheist now, but that religious upbringing still exists in us. The Shamanistic rituals which I witnessed myself mesmerised me as they seem to be very mystical and scientifically inexplicable phenomenon. I even ended up believing in them. Compared to my brother, my attitude towards making a film is metaphorical. It can be very well said that it is a collaboration between two persons one of who believes in Shamanism and the other does not.
Question: One of the things that is so remarkable about your work as a film maker is that it feels that it has a singular vision while at the same time you have worked with so many people on each film. Could you talk about our collaboration process while you develop your ideas?
Park Chan Wook: I have heard that my work is unique and original with a singular vision but despite that I don’t really work alone like a writer who is filled with inspiration. I am completely opposite to that romantic portrait of a writer. I am always working with some else, and questioning about what ever comes in my mind. I will give Night Fishing as an example. When we first started with idea, it was to show a dead body of a North Korean soldier floating down the river, which is actually very near to the North and South Korean border. The fisherman by chance fishes the corpse out and gets himself along with the corpse entangled with the fish line and they together have a dance. But, the telecommunication company which was financing us did not like the idea, so we had to completely change it. I could have made it the way I wanted it, but I chose not to.
There is a writer with whom I have been working ever since we wrote Lady Vengeance. It really helps me to have some one next to me because we can share our ideas with each other. The way we both work is that we have one computer, and on to that computer we hook up two monitors and keyboards. We can both see what we are writing, which gives us a wide idea of what we want. At times we don’t agree with each other and completely erase what we have written. Many times we discuss on one point and even argue over where the comma should be placed. I have had people come up to me and tell me that such and such dialogue was very interesting and ask which one of us wrote it. We prefer not to answer that question because it is a collaborative effort and we don’t want only person taking the credit to it. At the last stage, I completely take over the script and spend a week going through it and amending it. It is as if I am putting in the colours on a plain picture, or as if I am composing some piece of music. After that, the draft written by me is compared with the previous draft. This is the stage where the decision of the nuance of the film is made.
Question: ‘Theresa Raquin‘ is a book that you very liberally adapted in as THIRST. Emile Zola was one quoted in saying that ‘What you need to do with the novel is to study temperament and not characters‘, and going back to your 1999 short film JUDGEMENT and through your many films until STOKER, it struck me that that is a phase in which you did not put much focus on performance but rather the character. There is a specific tone between the characters and of the characters which filters through all your work. Would you agree with that?
Park Chan Wook: I know that Emile Zola has applied an attitude to all of his work but i don’t necessarily subscribe to the same kind of attitude because for me the plot, and the narrative is always most important. For me the first and foremost comes the narrative rather than the character and its style. I would like to give the example of OLDBOY. It is actually a very brilliant Japanese manga. The reason for the grudge that the villain has against the protagonist, and the revenge that he exacts on him is completely different in the film than to what it is in the manga. The story in the manga made sense for itself, but to adapt it for the screen, it did not fit into it. I had discussions with the producer and asked questions like why would the villain incarcerate the protagonist, and keep him locked up for such a long time? We could not reach to a reasonable conclusion. Here I will tell you something very interesting. I went to use the toilet, and while I was doing my business and looking at the white wall in front of me I questioned to myself that why did the villain let go of the protagonist? Why didn’t he leave him in the room till the day he died? Then it occurred to me that the releasing of the protagonist must be the most important part. As you know that the film has incestuous elements in it. I thought to myself that the villain might be wanting to take revenge via the daughter. I made up my mind about the fact that there would be a sex scene between the father daughter, but it would be OK as they would not know that they are related to each other. This whole trail of thoughts went through my mind and I went straight back to the producer and gave him my idea. I even said that if my idea is not accepted, I will walk away from making this film. The real reason to make this film was not to show the incestuous relationship, but to make a very good film out of a manga, and go beyond what the manga itself had in it.
Title Image is courtesy of KoBiz
Night Fishing Image courtesy of KTCorp.
Poster for Lady Vengeance. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist.
The YouTube video is property of The London Tree.
Tags: 1st London East Asia Film Festival, Interviews, London East Asia Film Festival
Your email address will not be published.
Current ye@r *
Leave this field empty
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.