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Hey yíall, Iím so thrilled to have had the joy of an exclusive chat with one of our favourite directors, Bong Joon-ho, creator of one of the best monster movies ever made, 2006ís The Host.  Already a record breaker in his homeland of Korea, we chatted about his latest piece of brilliance to land on US shores, Mother.  We also discussed the possibility of a Bong Joon-ho graphic novel or cartoon, Bong's perverted mind, his dream of creating a scary new horror film and why his own mother wonít talk about Mother.

 

Mother

Bong Joon-ho

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  Kim Hye-ja, your star in Mother is very famous in Korea for playing sweet, loving mothers.  Did she have any hesitation in playing this very different type of parent?

Bong Joon-ho:  When I was pitching the film to her, cos I was in the position of asking her if she wanted to do this, thankfully enough she really liked the idea.  She didnít have any kind of reservation about taking on the role.  There was no script at that point, it was just talking, telling her the story that I had in mind and it was about ten minutes of me telling her what would happen in this film.  The contents of story was the same and the ending was also the same when I told it to her and the specifics were discussed with us later on in separate sessions, but she didnít have any reservations about taking this role on at all and that was a blessing for us because she really wanted to do it.  And she said that she wanted to do it specifically because it was so much different than what she had done before and that this was the kind of role that she wanted to do for quite some time.

 

LMD:  In Mother, youíre dealing with a character who is mentally ill.  How do you gauge the sensitivity with which you deal with such a character as the son? How do you know when the humour in the film has gone too far?

BJ-h:  {Laughs} I must have a very perverse mind.  Strangely enough, dealing with this kind of character is actually easy and comfortable for me, itís not too foreign.  Rather than simply to entice sympathy or portray them in a cruel manner, I think whatís more important with this character is the ambiguous quality about him.  That ultimately, we donít know what this son really is.  As the film progresses, we learn more and more that this person is someone we canít figure out unless you really crack open the brain and look into him.  Thereís a multitude of things that we come in contact with through him; thereís the fear and the frustration and the horror that he might be and those are qualities that we really donít completely get to see, yet have a sense of.

More importantly, this movie is from the perspective of the mother as she looks and takes of and is concerned with her son.  But I think the ultimate tragedy is that even she, for someone who was so devoted and into the existence of her son that even she canít figure out who this person really is even though he is her son.  Thatís the ultimate tragedy.

 

LMD:  As you say, the film deals with the love of this Korean mother and son, but how do you compare that relationship to that of Korean fathers and sons?

BJ-h:  Of course with fathers in these days, I think a lot of their place in power in has changed in greater society.  When you consider that Korea was mainly a Confucian society for a long time and a paternal society, I think that kind of power and that kind of relationship has changed.  But because a motherís relationship with their offspring and their sons is something thatís very primal; theyíve been in the motherís belly inside and I think thereís something that speaks to that and that relationship is something that is very primal and still unchangeable and I think thatís why there is a difference there.

 

LMD:  With such a twisted, interesting movie called Mother, I think many people are going to wonder what, if anything, in this film reflects your own relationship with your mother?

BJ-h:  There are very small bits and pieces of her in this film.  I mean, my mom was also a very scared person; mainly she worried a lot about her offspring, she has two sons and two daughters. There are very small bits of her in this character, but last year or so, she watched a screening of this film and since then, this is a movie that we donít really talk about when we see each other and we donít bring up. {Without translator} Never.

 

LMD:  Your films from Mother to The Host and Memories of Murder all have some form of social commentary, whether itís about the relationships of mothers and sons, the ineptitude of the police, or science going too far.  Is making social commentary what drives your ideas and filmmaking?

BJ-h:  Itís not to say that the main purpose is to criticise or say something about society as a greater whole, but Iím more concerned with the individual and specific people and the human concerns that arise within a narrative.  Because Iím obviously making films that concern Korean characters, I think thereís probably something in that regard of cultural sense in the peoples that I portray and the characters, but I think itís also hard to separate an individual from the society that they come from, as well.  So, for Memories of Murder, its main concern and question that really was at the center was why did these girls die at that point and why were the cops not able to find the killer and solve the mystery?  Those are situational things that I think are more important of that era, of that time period in Korea.  Something like The Host, the question would be why is this family struggling so on their own to solve this problem of their daughter being taken away.  Why are they not being helped?  Why are they alone in this struggle to do it?  I think by asking those questions, you kind of have a greater picture of the other dilemmas that point to make that happen in a great societal whole.  I think those are the things that Iím more concerned with more so than trying to target political commentary.

 

LMD:  I want to ask about your next project, The Snow Piercer {Le Transperceneige}, when we spoke last year you said you were going through a torturous time writing it.  I wondered if as both a writer and director, it is easy for you to let someone else {Park Chan-wook} direct your screenplay?  Also, what project will you be directing next?

BJ-h:  {Without translator} You are the very first one who asked about whatís next after Snow Piercer! {Laughs} {With translator} Rather than that, I think if the chance comes and thereís a project thatís interesting I want to come upon a script written by someone else that Iíll be able to just direct - the other way around!  That might be something that Iíd be more interested in at some point.  If it was purely writing, I might be interested in doing a cartoon or comic, a graphic novel kind of thing.  Although I canít really say my drawing skills are that great, Iíd like to see something like that published at some point, if itís possible.  And beyond Le Transperceneige, I want to try my hand at a completely new, fresh kind of horror movie.  A very scary movie.  I want to try my hand at a very scary movie.

 

LMD:  Can we expect that very scary movie soon?

BJ-h:  I think that would have to be at least 2014. {Laughs}

 

LMD:  When will we see Le Transperceneige?

BJ-h:  I think it would be around late 2011 or early 2012.

 

LMD:  What does the dance at the beginning of Mother mean?

BJ-h:  {Without translator} Maybe some kind of craziness.  {With translator} She has a very dazed expression on her when sheís dancing, like her mind is elsewhere, but sheís physically dancing.  And I think what I wanted to say with that scene is that person is crazy, that sheís not in her right mind, or she is going to become crazy and possibly that sheís going to become crazy throughout the movie and Iím trying to instill that idea in the audience by shooting that scene.

And itís a very beautiful expansive field, but sheís very alone in that scene and thatís another sense that I wanted to instill; that sense of loneliness, that sense of being by yourself, unlike the last scene when sheís dancing amongst the crowd on the bus.  Itís an expansive field, but that kind of singular loneliness is another sense that I wanted to create.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Feb 26th, 2010

 

Special thanks to Mr. Ernest Woo for his invaluable translation.

 

 

 

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Photos

Exclusive photo by LMD

Film stills courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

 

 

 

 

 

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