Korean Director Bong Joon-Ho Talks about "Mother"
Many consider Bong Joon-Ho one of the best Korean filmmakers working today and there's plenty of truth to that. Having made such movies as the brilliant Memories of Murder and the hilariously wonderful The Host it's easy to see why he's held in such high regard. His latest film, Mother, is another terrific film and an apt reminder of how talented Joon-Ho is behind the camera. DVDTalk writer Jack Giroux had the chance to talk with the director and to no surprise discovered that he is as engaging and as interesting as his films.
DVD Talk: Did the success of The Host make it easier to get financing and more creative freedom for Mother?
Bong Joon-Ho: With the success of Memories of Murder in Korea... Yes, there wasn't much financing difficulties. Unlike the film industry in the US, where the studio tends to have more authority and control, in Korea the Korean film industry directors tend to have more control over movies. With the success of Memories of Murder not only the difficulties in financing decreased, but I was able to get more creative control with my films.
DVD Talk: The best way to label Mother would probably be as a sweet or nice revenge film. It's very heartfelt even with the darker aspects.
Bong Joon-Ho: Yes, that's true. I do see myself in between following that conventional genre and destroying what's already out there. I see that double standard and maybe from that aspect it's sweet revenge. Maybe that's where you got that impression. Where's this term from, sweet revenge? Where've you heard that?
DVD Talk: Well, that's just the first thing that came to my head. I don't think I've seen a revenge film with this level of sweetness.
Bong Joon-Ho: Emotionally?
DVD Talk: Yeah. Your past films have had this melancholy humor and sweetness that I guess I've never seen in a film like this before.
Bong Joon-Ho: Yeah.
DVD Talk: The film is also actually very funny at times and are you at all surprised by how dark people are saying it is?
Bong Joon-Ho: No, I didn't actually realize that. At least not at the time I was writing the script and the scenario, but as the movie wrapped up and it was completed I started realizing that this really is a dark story. Still, fundamentally it's about a mother, sacrifice, and how far is a mother willing to go to save her son and to bear his name. In that whole process it really is a dark story. In my whole journey of trying to find out how far a mother can actually go to protect her son the darkness sort of followed with how far it could go. Well, relatively the comical factors compared to my previous films is relatively low. Yes, not as much as The Host and Memories of Murder.
DVD Talk: There's not much humor in the last twenty minutes of Mother.
Bong Joon-Ho: (laughs) [It's] very heavy.
DVD Talk: Do you think if the film wasn't told from the mother's perspective she wouldn't be as sympathetic? Especially towards the ending.
Bong Joon-Ho: (Spoiler Alert) You mention the last scene in the movie where the mother actually kills a guy. Yes, more than sympathy I think it's more of a shock to a lot of people. At the same time, it's a shock and a tragedy... (Spoiler Over) With the typical mothers in Korea they do sort of feel like their in her shoes and they know where she's coming from. What type of choice would I make if I was in her shoes or if I was in that situation? Although that scene will not receive that much sympathy, but I do think that scene does create a sense innocence as a parent.
DVD Talk: You've obviously done a lot of interviews and have covered a lot of ground, but is there anything you'd like to talk about that you haven't been asked about yet?
Bong Joon-Ho: (laughs) Yeah, it's funny that you mention it. I have questions to the interviewers actually. As you know the character in this movie is being portrayed as anal, sort of psychotic, and as an obsessed Korean mother. So, how do you feel when you see that character in Mother? Do you see it as a totally separate character from a totally different country? Or can you in some sort of way relate to her? How do you feel when you see that character?
DVD Talk: Like most of your films it's very universal how some of your characters act. They're always looking out for their family. I think a mother in America, who's obviously different, would understand what she's going through. It's a little animalistic how she acts. It's like she's protecting her young and you can definitely sympathize with her.
Bong Joon-Ho: One more thing, in the last scene in the movie where [the] other old ladies are dancing in the tour buss.... In Korea old ladies actually do that. Only in Korea and Turkey. When I was at the New York Film Festival one of the reporters from Turkey actually pointed out that's how middle aged women ride on their busses and party. I thought we were the only ones.
DVD Talk: Are you doing Snow Piercer next?
Bong Joon-Ho: Yes, it's based off a French graphic novel and it's going to be a very heated sci-fi action movie. Now I'm in the middle of the process of screenwriting so maybe shooting will start next year.
DVD Talk: Are you still writing in coffee shops?
Bong Joon-Ho: (laughs) How do you know? It's my bad habit. I always write in cafes or coffee shops.
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