You are known for working quite quickly, usually shooting a film in only a few weeks. Real Fiction takes this to the extreme with real-time filmmaking. Would you attempt such an experiment again?
I think that in filmmaking people often confuse the technique of the camera and of lighting and other mechanical things with what constitutes the core of filmmaking. What's really important to me is that the camera is designed to capture things and the lighting is meant to illuminate things. There's really nothing more to it. I don't want to get bogged down by all the many ways that one can learn how to manipulate these things. So if you shed your hang-ups about these technical aspects, films could be made much more quickly. In Real Fiction, what I tried to do was separate the body from the clothing; the object from its packaging. In some ways, I think what's more important, and more interesting, is to expose the flesh. That's what I try to do in rapid filmmaking strategies. Someday I do want to try to do it again, to actually shoot a 90-minute film in 90 minutes. Real Fiction ended up being 90 minutes but I shot three hours and 20 minutes, so I ended up wasting a lot of film. So someday, for real.
With Bad Guy and Samaritan Girl due for release on video in the US in the weeks ahead, has the American demand for DVD releases, particularly from countries such as South Korea, made it easier to get your films made?
The Isle was the first film of mine that was released in the US and, as you know, it didn't do really well here, but it did create a little bit of a following. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring generated ten times the audience in the US than it did in Korea, so one could say that it did very well. Between the various DVDs, five of my films are now, or soon will be, available here. I've become one of those directors whose films are better known abroad than in Korea, which also means that I've been able to benefit from more foreign sales. So, sure, it does allow me more access to foreign funding. I'm currently working with some funding from Japan, for instance. I'm now in a position of luxury that money is not really a concern anymore. It's really a matter of which film I choose to make. I could not say that five years ago.
Do you think it will make it easier to get a film made in Hollywood, presuming that you're still interested in making a film here?
In terms of Hollywood, one of the benefits would be that it opens doors to the world market. Not only through its funding system, but also through the faces, the stars that I might have access to in Hollywood. The question is whether the producers would allow "Kim Ki-duk-style" filmmaking and I don't think that's such an easy challenge. Many Americans are accustomed to Hollywood-style films and I do feel they need a change, but whether they can accept that is another question.
Spring, Summer is a very mature film. Were you thinking about the theme of the film for many years before you actually made it?
I have to say that the themes I struggle with in all my films - these aren't fleeting ideas. I believe they form over a long time, very slowly. In some ways, scriptwriting is sort of a life-long writing process that ultimately culminates in a script, but it's not a finite process.
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring
What made you decide to play the adult monk in the film?
In Spring, Summer, the seasons were much more important to me than the actors and the acting. So when the actor dropped out, I thought it wouldn't hurt for me to step in because it wasn't very important to me.
The was some suggestion among critics, regarding Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, that you had reached some sort of spiritual turning point in your work. However, you seem determined not to work in any one genre. Your next film, Samaritan Girl, bares some parallels to Breaking the Waves, in the sense of finding redemption from questionable sexual sacrifice.
There's no reason to make the same film over and over again. Whether it's the same genre, same style, same theme, same plot even. I have no interest in that. I do believe that all my films are unified by one thing and I suppose that's that they're all made by me! Some people have told me that I should make another film like Spring, Summer or that I should stick to the style of 3-Iron, and I reject those suggestions. I do feel the need to keep changing and I believe I will. The latest film that I just completed production, The Bow, is also a very different film, I think. I look forward to not knowing what film I'll next make.
If I were to have relied on corporate funding, or if I depended on big name celebrities, I could have not insisted on or crafted my own unique style. In some ways, it's my small budget and my insistence on using little-known actors that allowed me to insist on my own style. The Hollywood system is not likely to allow me to do it this way, partly because of this funding system. In some ways, it's sort of a dichotomy between the market or style, an insistence of the market over style.
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