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Often uses computer generated effects to smoothen transitions between shots
Frequently uses short, surreal fantasy sequences in which a deceased character will interact with a living one in the film's present (or vice versa).
Usually casts Kang-ho Song and Ha-kyun Shin as friends or enemies. (Joint Security Area, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Thirst )
Characters in his films often use scissors to commit acts of violence. (Vengeance trilogy, Thirst)
Turned down the chance to remake The Evil Dead.
His films "Sympathy for Mr Vengeance", "Oldboy" and "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" are widely known as the "Vengeance Trilogy".
Was a student of philosophy at Sogang University in Seoul.
Has one daughter.
Met wife at a university film club in the 80s.
Member of the Jury at the Venice Film Festival in 2006.
Decided to become a filmmaker after seeing Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo.
I don't feel enjoyment watching films that evoke passivity. If you need that kind of comfort, I don't understand why you wouldn't go to a spa.
Basically, I'm throwing out the question 'When is such violence justified?' To get that question to touch the audience physically and directly - that's what my goal is. In the experience of watching my film, I don't want the viewer to stop at the mental or the intellectual. I want them to feel my work physically. And because that is one of my goals, the title 'exploitative' will probably follow me around for a while.
In our lives, we have good things and bad things, happiness and pain. Life is full of pain and happiness and that's what I wanted to show.
Living without hate for people is almost impossible. There is nothing wrong with fantasizing about revenge. You can have that feeling. You just shouldn't act on it.
I have principles and rules. I deal very carefully with acts of violence and make sure that audiences understand how much suffering these acts cause.
I can see why my films remind people of computer games, but I've never played one. Actually, I was approached by a Japanese designer of a PlayStation game called Metal Gear Solid. When I met him, I found that there was nothing really to talk about. But I was told that I was idolized in the world of computer games.
...there is one thing that can never be said in Korea. You could never say that the Japanese occupation of Korea had been beneficial. That would create even more hostility than a movie praising North Korea. It would be like telling Jews that the Holocaust didn't exist.
In my films, I focus on pain and fear. The fear just before an act of violence and the pain after. This applies to the perpetrators as well as the victims.
Numerous times I lie in bed at night and imagine the cruellest torture. I imagine the most miserable ruining of that person's life. After that, I can fall asleep with a smile on my face. As long as it stays in the realm of imagination, the crueller the better - that's healthy. I'd like to recommend it to you all as well. I hope my films can help in any small way to help your imagination become at least a little bit crueller.
When a hero decides to take revenge, their hitherto tedious life is ended and they are born again as a completely different person. With the completion of revenge in sight, the hero has to face the fact that their pleasure up until that point must come to an end.
I've always tried not to fall for the lies that say things like 'you can do anything if you have the will' or that 'you're the only one who can carve out your own life.' According to the audience member's beliefs, you could call it the will of God or social systems, or fate; but in the end, what I'm trying to say is the same. And that is, 'Life doesn't go your own way."
When I was about to start Oldboy I was somewhat concerned about making two films on vengeance back to back. I even thought about refusing the project but my wife convinced me to by saying, 'If the story's interesting, isn't that all that matters?' Then reporters kept asking me about the two vengeance films and why I was doing them one after the other. It felt like they were criticizing me for choosing to tell horrible stories, instead of taking up one of the beautiful ones. And then, before I realized it, I'd announced that I wasn't just making two, but three films on vengeance. It was actually just a spontaneous statement in an interview, and I regretted it deeply, but I couldn't take something back I said in public. So you could say the trilogy owes its conception to Korean journalists.
My films are the stories of people who place the blame for their actions on others because they refuse to take on the blame themselves.
[on Thirst (2009)] Yes it is true that I like film noir and there are elements of film noir to be found in this film as well, but the story borrows a lot of ideas from a French novel called "Therese Raquin" by a novelist Emile Zola. Some of these ideas that you might identify as being specifically film noir are already in that novel, so maybe it is that film noir writers are influenced by Emile Zola even. And apart from film noir, fundamentally this film has romance at its core as well. So in order to actually describe this film you may have to string together a lot of genres, but what does this mean for a film to be a mix of any number of genres it might mean that the film is none of these genres, so I'm not even sure if you can call it a genre film.
[Asked about who influenced his directing style] I don't know if you've noticed this in my films, but I think I'm influenced by Franz Kafka. I like his work very much. "What would Kafka do in this scene?" I don't think like that. The surrealism and the absurdity, I began to like those things because of his work.
[on Thirst (2009)] When you look at this film and look at the blood that turns the priest into a vampire, we don't know where this blood comes from. We don't know whose blood it originally was or we don't know why the pack of blood was put there and just like we aren't sure of these origins. Also at the end of the film the views on the future for these two characters are very contrasting and the priest just as somebody who didn't give up on his faith would say "let's see each other in hell", because he believes in the afterlife. But she says, "when you're dead, you're dead". And thereby saying that she thinks there's no future for them, this is it, death is it, death is the end. But just like you were unable to tell where the origin of this vampire was at the start. At the end you can't tell what the future will hold for the characters. That's exactly the kind of film I wanted to make. The one that you can't pin down, the one you cannot easily define, or one that doesn't necessarily give satisfaction to the audience...is so that they take this question away. I want this question to enter into their body, enter into their head, and cause these changes to take place and for them to be sick with this question.
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