June 11, 2006
The director of "The Host (Koemul),” one of the most anticipated local films this year, said last week his new film challenges prejudice against local sci-fi films.
"Everybody wanted to dissuade me from making a sci-fi film in the very beginning when they first heard about my idea,” Bong Joon-ho said during a news conference Thursday at the Westin Chosun hotel in Seoul. "Some said that it would leave a stain on my career.”
Director Bong Joon-ho
Many people voiced concerns about his new film as no local sci-fi films, especially featuring a monster, have been commercially successful. But Bong said their preconceptions motivated him to make a quality film.
As he needed to work with people who trust him, most of his film crew had worked on his previous films including actors Song Gang-ho and Park Hye-il from his second feature film "Memories of Murder (Sarinui Chuok)” in 2003 and Bae Doo-na from his debut film "Barking Dogs Never Bite (Pullandasui Kae)” in 2000.
"The Host,” which opens July 27, tells of a mutant rising from the Han River in Seoul, and the director says the film borrows from his own experience.
"When I was a high school student, I saw a strange creature crawling up on the Chamsil Bridge, and I was determined to make a film about it when I became a director,” Bong recalled.
For realistic renderings of a monster, its special effects and computer graphics, the crew were helped by staff from the "Harry Potter” series and "The Lord of Rings” trilogy.
But Bong said he didn’t want to mock monsters from Hollywood blockbusters.
"I wanted to create a monster with Asian touches that would suit actors Song and Bae rather than Tom Cruise or Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Bong said.
During the conference, a short video clip revealed a mutant in the film for the first time. The monster, the size of a bus, has a long tail with four legs.
Some of the scenes show the mysterious creature taking the youngest daughter of a family away and crawling on a bridge over the Han River.
The beauty of this film is that a monster appears from where ordinary people live and it threatens an ordinary family not a hero, Bong added.
Although the film features a monster, Bong said his film centers on a family different from a typical sci-fi monster film.
"I want to talk about a family, which struggles to fight a monster without receiving any help,” the director said. "I also want to portray the world without compassion.”
Thanks to his fame, largely attributed to the success of the crime thriller "Memories of Murder,” his new film was premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival last month, receiving positive reviews. But Bong said audiences there couldn’t fully enjoy the film due to its many Korean themes and because computer graphics and music had been incomplete.
"I had to show the uncompleted version at Cannes as the festival has the biggest film market and I wanted to promote my film. I was so happy to know many people really loved it, but I think it has Korean humor and themes which can be only appreciated by Korean audiences,” Bong said.
At the film festival, the film was sold to 10 countries including the United States, Britain, Argentina and Brazil, for a total of about $ 2.3 million. Due to the sales there as well as its pre-sale in Japan, the film has earned about two thirds of its 11 billion won production budget.