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(LEAD) Director Na Hong-jin returns after 5-year break with mystery thriller

All Headlines 17:03 April 07, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more quotes, backgrond info in paras 18-23, 26-27; ADDS photos)
By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) -- It took more than five years for director Na Hong-jin, who was highly acclaimed by both critics and audiences for his previous work of "The Chaser" (2008) and "The Yellow Sea" (2010), to return to the silver screen.

His latest work "Goksung" is a mystery-thriller featuring a rural village plagued with mysterious murders after the arrival of a stranger.

Actors Kwak Do-won and Hwang Jung-min play a police officer and a shaman, respectively, while actress Chun Woo-hee appears as a villager who allegedly witnesses the killings.

"I wanted to create a new genre of film," Na said during a news conference at the CGV-Apgujeong theater in southern Seoul to promote the upcoming film. "I tried to make a mutant genre through the untypical mixing of different genres."

His strong desire to move on from the thriller "The Chaser," despite all the acclaim poured on the film, pushed him to start the new thriller, the director said.

"While watching 'The Chaser' again and again, I have always felt that it was not good enough. So, I strove to make up for the shortcomings and make a better film. I did my best this time."

Na said "Goksung" also started from the regret that his previous crime-thrillers have always centered on the assailants of criminal cases.

"I had no deep thought about what led the victim of a case to their fate. So, this time I tried to see a case from the viewpoint of a victim."

For Kwak, who previously worked with the filmmaker on "The Yellow Sea," "Goksung" is his lead actor debut.

He captivated the director's heart in a single stroke through his small but impressive role as a college professor in the 2010 movie.

"Actually, when he offered me the lead role, I thought he was crazy," Kwak recalled with a laugh. "I thought I'm not competent enough."

Kwak said he was concerned about his ability to accomplish the job since he knew himself very well, but decided to take the offer because he believed he could do it with help from the filmmaker.

"I enjoyed the filming, although my policeman character who lives a plain and relaxed life experiences huge confusion in the process of solving a mysterious incident."

Hwang, known to bring guaranteed box office success, took on the role of a shaman for the first time in his acting career.

He became one of the country's top actors through films such as "Ode to My Father," "Veteran" and "The Himalayas."

Asked why he chose to add "Goksung" to his filmography, the actor said it was because the intriguing screenplay astonished him.

"It was one of the best screenplays that I have received recently," he said.

Hwang's character Il-gwang is brought to the town by the police officer Jong-gu (Kwak Do-yon) to lead the ancient shamanic ritual of "gut" as Jong-gu's daughter Hyo-jin becomes severely ill, showing symptoms similar to those of serial killing victims.

Hwang said he was not confident if he could look like a real shaman even after meeting many in the profession and watching their "gut" rituals.

However, Na said Hwang's resulting acting was far beyond his expectations.

"He did it so well that some shamans who coached him asked me if he was really doing the 'gut,' so I had to keep looking at his eyes to know if he's really okay. I really worried about that," he recalled, rousing a round of laughter from the audience.

The filmmaker said he abstained from including sketchy, bloody violence scenes in "Goksung" because he was shocked to see a woman screaming and pulling her jacket over her head while watching his film "The Yellow Sea" together with a man who seemed like her lover on a Christmas Day.

"I asked myself, 'What did I do on someone's important day?'" he said.

Actress Chun, the star of the internationally acclaimed Korean film "Han Gong-ju," echoed the sentiment, saying she had no reason to reject the film.

"I was curious how I could embody the screenplay. It wasn't easy to do it but there were many thrilling and wonderful moments," she said.

Asked about the growing anticipation from the local film industry that "Goksung" may be invited to compete in this year's Cannes Film Festival, Na said he would appreciate if this happens, but added that there is nothing he expects more than this from the festival.

"If I made a purely artistic film, I might have harbored expectation and desire, but 'Goksung' is more like a commercial film," he said.

The film is scheduled to open in local theaters on May 12. It is currently in the middle of post-production.

sshim@yna.co.kr
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