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Emerging Cinema Master - Kim Ki-Duk
Korean director Kim Ki-duk has been making some of the most consistently interesting and controversial films to come out of the South Korean cinema scene in quite some time. With an incredible range running from his most recent poetic and near dialog less The Bow and 3-Iron to the unflinchingly violent Coast Guard, The Isle Kim Ki-Duk has shown that great film makers can't be neatly bundled into a single genre or style. His take on relationships, love, hate, and theology may not always gel with your own but there's no denying how powerful some of his films are, and as his filmography grows, so too do his directorial skills. DVD Talk writer Ian Jane had a chance to interview Kim Ki-duk via email, and the result is an insightful look into a director who is truly an emerging cinema master.

DVD Talk: Your films deal with very extreme emotions, often times equal parts love and hatred and the similarities between the two. Where does the inspiration for making films that deal with this material come from? What drives you as a filmmaker?

Kim Ki-Duk: I believe that every person has multiple feelings. A person's current personality of love, hatred, jealousy, rage or a murderous intent and so on is formed upon genetic elements, education, the environment and a family a person grows in.

The source of my movie comes from a theory "The white color and the black color is the same." I try not to interpret things of the world into a single meaning. Rather, I try the opposite. For example, a man, who fights too often and too well, does so, not because he's good at it but because he is scared.

DVD Talk: Your films are also known for their minimal amounts of dialogue, yet you're still able to portray so much through your movies without the need for a lot of words. Why is it that your characters are so often so quiet?

Kim Ki-Duk: I don't think that the spoken words solve everything. Sometimes silence delivers truer feelings while the words can distort the meaning in some situations.

DVD Talk: A lot of times, at the end of your film, you leave things open to a bit of interpretation for the viewer - your latest film, Hwal (The Bow) is a prime example of this. Why the decision to have a more ambiguous ending than a more concrete one?

Kim Ki-Duk: A director should not define everything. For me, the movie is a form of a question I pose to the others or to the audience. I want to ask their opinion on my point of view and discuss it with them. That is why the movie is so interesting medium. And that is also why that my movies have no concrete answer, but the answers in progress that change constantly.

DVD Talk: Your background isn't in filmmaking so much as it is in painting, and this is obvious in some of the compositions in your films as they look very much like still paintings sometimes. Do you find that your background in art has helped you as a filmmaker?

Kim Ki-Duk: It helped me a lot. I have drawn paintings, but I also taken pictures for a long time. And I have worked for many parts in factories, so I know how machines function. And that helped me a lot, too. It is important to study the movies theoretically and technically, but the most important thing is, I think, to experience the various types of life in the world.

DVD Talk: Likewise, has your background in the Korean military affected your filmmaking style or career in any way?

Kim Ki-Duk: I spent 5 years in a marine corp. and experienced many things. Meeting people with different backgrounds, and learning about the orders, violence, and ideology, I became confused. Especially, I was severely trained against North Korea. After I retired from the army, I gradually opened my eyes to the truth, and I put that in the movies. The important thing is that an accident happens when people don't respect one another, and we are in pain because we are not free from an obsession.

DVD Talk: Your films often times deal with outcasts, people who don't fit into the norms of society - like the central character in 3-Iron of the prostitute in Bad Guy. Why the focus on more unfortunate characters?

Kim Ki-Duk: They should be respected as one of the contemporaries. Even though they are unhappy, it is wrong for us to judge them as unhappy. I wanted to show their frank lives through my movies.

DVD Talk: Which of your films do you feel the most proud of and why is it that you choose that one?

Kim Ki-Duk: There's none I feel proud of. The movies I will make in the future are the ones I take pride in, because they will contain the consciousness that I am not aware of yet. I am curious - with what kind of idea and thought I will live. But if you insist to pick one, I'd like to recommend "Address Unknown" to the American viewers. I want American youngsters to see how a youth in a third world lives.

DVD Talk: Bad Guy has done better in Korea than any of your other movies have thus far. Why do you think that this film connected with the Korean audience more than your other films, some of which - in my eyes at least, are more accessible? Was it the story of the presence of Cho Jae-Hyan?

Kim Ki-Duk: There are still a lot of movie goers in Korea who want to see a celebrity in a movie. Without Cho Jae-hyun, I think less than a tenth of the viewers would have watched . But I don' think it is good that too many people see my movies. Koreans know my name and who I am, but they don't watch my movies. I don't like to make a movie everybody loves. I want a few audiences, who have been hurt and worried about life, living, agony and grief, to see my movies.

DVD Talk: How do you feel about film critics who think your work is too violent or too exploitative? Or towards people who feel your work is sexist and misogynistic?

Kim Ki-Duk: I think that is possible. They have different background and education from mine which naturally led them to interpret my movie differently. But the critics become careful now that I am internationally recognized and have won several awards. I guess they are looking back their own thoughts. I hope their point of view changes from seeing only a single thing to observing multiple stuffs, but they will need some time.

DVD Talk: I've read that at one point in your life you considered becoming a minister. How does theology affect your work? Does God exist in your films and what part does he play?

Kim Ki-Duk: God to me is the nature the nature we see through our eyes and the nature we feel in our hearts. The nature is the most grandeur and profound math, science, philosophy and theology.

DVD Talk: Do you have any interest in moving to Hollywood and working in North America? How do you think the established Hollywood system would handle your style and your material?

Kim Ki-Duk: Not yet. If the movie I make in Korea is good enough for an American distributor, I can release it in the U.S.

If I can, I'd like to make a big budgeted movie with celebrities later. The story I really want to make into a movie - I want to film a Buddhist religious war of Asia when I have a chance.

DVD Talk: Are there any actors either in the Korean film scene or the North American film scene that you'd like to work with? Why?

Kim Ki-Duk: Not yet. I have not thought about making a movie with American actors. And which American movie star would want to make a movie with me? If you know someone, please let me know.

DVD Talk: Now that The Bow is complete, what projects are you currently involved with?

Kim Ki-Duk: I am preparing a movie whose main character is a hand gun. I also plan to have an investment meeting at the upcoming Pusan International Festival for a movie of a woman who tries to abandon her beautiful look.

Thanks for your quality questions. It was pleasure answering them. And thank you for your interest and attention to my movies and me. Hope more American viewers watch The Coast Guard and share the uniqueness of the movie.

- Ian Jane

(Note: All Kim Ki-Duk's answers are as written by him via email)

Kim Ki-Duk Movies On DVD:


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