An Emotional Tour de Force for Uhm Jung-hwa

May 26, 2006

One of the many things actress and singer Uhm Jung-hwa wanted to do when she was young was take piano lessons, but that would have been a luxury for the daughter of a single working mother. This may be the reason Uhm was afraid when she was offered the role of a piano teacher in the movie “My Piano.” The film’s director Kwon Hyung-jin told her she could have a double play when necessary, but Uhm did not want to deceive audiences.

So she bought a piano, for the first time in her life, and learned all the pieces she had to play in the movie by heart. It took her exactly two months before she was able to play Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto and Schumann’s “Träumerei” herself. It is these efforts that make the film so moving. “I tried to be an ordinary Ji-su next door. I wanted the movie to be like a documentary,” she says. “My Piano” is a story of friendship and communication between the piano prodigy Gyeong-min, an orphan, and his piano teacher Ji-su, who has a Salieri complex.

Uhm has completely changed her image in the film. So far, she has projected a provocative and arrogant personality in films such as “Marriage Is a Crazy Thing” and “Singles” and upbeat songs like “I Don’t Know” and “Invitation.”

Those who know her say she is highly emotional. On a scale of 1 to 10, she feels everything at a magnitude of 10. “It takes me twice as long to read a book as other people,” she says. “It’s not because I have problems reading but because I read a book picturing every character’s gestures and expressions in my mind. That makes it difficult to turn the page.”

Her innate sensitivity and acquired concentration drew sympathy even from her seven-year-old partner. The boy is a real piano prodigy cast after a year’s search of the whole country, but he had no acting experience at all. Uhm helped him portray the character perfectly. Even after shooting stopped, she kept telling him that she was sad that she could not see him any more and cried, and the boy cried with her.

Uhm admits that praise is what makes her do better. That is why she plans to go back to singing after some absence. She misses the love she got as a singer. “I feel very sad if a singer I like says that he or she will not sing any more. I would give up neither singing nor acting for my fans.”

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