By Chung Joo-won
SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korean movie director Chung Sung-hee has made a bold shift of perspectives with her film "Eclipse," also known by its Korean title "The Cutter," in which she explored the pure emotional impulses of teenage boys in the teen crime movie.
The director said on Friday she chose the teen crime genre to present her first full-length film, pinning hopes that her work would raise public awareness of the country's sex crimes -- a deep-rooted problem that even influences teenage boys and girls.
"Eclipse" premiered at a Seoul theater that day, followed by a press conference with Chung, lead actors Choi Tae-joon and Kim Si-hoo and lead actress Mun Ka-young. The film is slated to open on March 30 in local theaters.
During the news conference, Chung said that the student-based perspective, fully embraced in the film, makes a legitimate shield against the criticisms that the film may lead to unintended justification or generosity for teen sex crime.
Indeed, the film conveys the message that teen sex crimes should be dealt as a social issue throughout. However, the relationship between the two overwhelmingly charming anti-heroes, played by actor Choi Tae-joon and Kim Si-hoo, is the unexpected hindrance to the social theme and seems to beg for empathy for teens engaged in the sex crime.
But the director strongly vetoed the idea.
"The film has greater emphasis on the students' psychological context (on their involvement in the sex crime) rather than their perception of the nature of crime," she said in the press conference.
"Ordinary-looking teens can be exposed to those crimes as much as the violent ones," she said.
The presence of grown-up characters, good or bad, seemed so minuscule in the adult-only movie, as if the world is comprised of only teens. Perhaps such seclusion is the source of the teens' social alienation and vulnerability in the face of sex crimes.
The plot of "Eclipse" is simple. Two high school boys, each with his own issues from faltering family relationships, seek emotional shelter from an unconditional friendship. But the story is enriched by the elaborate character development of Se-joon, played by 22-year-old Choi, and Yoon-jae, played by Kim, who is six years his senior.
Yoon-jae, an illegitimate son of a prominent politician, takes his origin of birth as his own scarlet letter and the source of her mother's life as a hidden mistress. He transfers to a new high school in Suwon, where he meets Se-joon, his soon-to-be best friend. Se-joon is a born-fighter and a loner in class, but offers unconditional friendship to the new face. When school gangs bully Yoon-jae, Se-joon always steps in to save Yoon-jae.
Se-joon is so obsessed with Yoon-jae and seeking his attention that he loses his temper when his friend is out of his reach. Se-joon even introduces his financially troubled friend to a lucrative "part-time job" -- helping grown-up gangs intoxicate young women at a night club and suppling the drugged victims to "customers" of a paid sex service.
Mun, engaged in a love triangle with Se-joon and Yoon-jae, turns out to be the ultimate victim of the crime.
The highlight of the film is perhaps the scene where Se-joon, so daring and unwavering, breaks down after he finds himself in a terrible, irrevocable situation. The boy crouches in the corner of a bathroom and sobs with his head buried in his bloody knees, showing how a teenage boy's world crumbles at the cost of succumbing to a fleeting moment of jealousy.
Both the actors of Se-joon and Yoon-jae excelled in "eye-acting," or expression of emotions through the eyes. Eye acting and pauses from tensions speak more than words in "Eclipse."
The movie is Choi's debut to the silver screen.
Choi reminisced that in his high school days, he had a "friend like Yoon-jae whom he sought to give all he could without expecting anything in return." That memory helped him understand his character, Se-joon, he said.
Kim said he initially had trouble fully grasping his role of a high school student.
"I did my best to show the psychological world of a high school kid. The movie taught me a lot (about acting)."
"This could be the last time that I wear a high school uniform," he said, arousing a round of laughter among the audience.
Mun, the 20-year-old actress, said she was glad to play someone close to her age.
"I started acting at a young age. I always wanted to play a character that didn't not wear school uniforms. Now I feel grateful for my character in 'Eclipse.' It was a character that I could understand the best at my age."
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