The Korean director talks international appeal as he is being honoured at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
Korean director Park Chan Wook is tired of being asked about vengeance….understandably, since he finished his ‘vengeance’ trilogy with Sympathy for Lady Vengeance nearly a decade ago.
“I get asked a lot why vengeance is so important in Korean cinema, so I flip the question, why are foreign distributors only interested in films that deal with vengeance? There are many Korean films to choose from, like comedies and romances.”
He is both surprised and thrilled that a film like Oldboy (2003) still draws crowds – as it did with a screening here at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
“I couldn’t dream it. I didn’t expect this response after 10 years,” he says, adding that he does think about such things when planning his films. “In fact I keep asking myself [while making each film] if the I film I’m making will stand the test of time, will cinematheques be showing it in 50 years? But you don’t know, even if you have that in mind.”
He recently made his first foray into English-language features with the well-received Fox Searchlight project Stoker; he plans to work again in English in the future but hasn’t decided what his next film will be yet (he definitely wants to make a 3D film in the future). “I do have many plans to work more in English, but also in Korean. It’s about a good script, whether that’s in Korea, America, France, Italy or Japan.”
He says working on an American film meant there was nothing lost in translation. “When I make Korean movies, even with very good translation, the audience is reading subtitles and sometimes they aren’t aware of cultural differences. With Stoker, there is no cultural or language misunderstanding.”
For all of his films, he thinks of the future audience. “It’s important to think about how international audiences will respond to my films,” he says. “I try not to use Korean cultural particularities like jokes that can only be understood by Koreans.”
While in Jerusalem, he has only seen one Israeli film so far, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s thriller Big Bad Wolves. “I think I know a little bit about kidnapping and torture,” he says with a smile, “but that film broke my expectations.”
The unflappable Park seems unfazed that his masterclass at JFF was interrupted by an air-raid siren. “I think Korean people can get used to this type of situation better than any other type of people,” he says with a laugh.