Festival report: Park Hong-min Q+A after the screening of “A Fish”

by Robert Cottingham on 12 November, 2016

in Event reports and reviews, Film, Film reviews and comment, London Korean Film Festival, Park Hong-min

Deep discussion in Park Hong-min's A Fish

Deep discussion in Park Hong-min’s A Fish…

Park Hong-Min was in London yesterday for a 3-D showing of his first film A Fish (2011). He gave a short Q-and-A after the screening. Transcribed by Robert Cottingham.

Tony Rayns: I’ll get things going. I take it this film is not based on your own experience?

Park Hong-min: Yes, it’s definitely not based on my own experience. I became interested in a place called Jindo and the Shamanistic rituals that take place there.

TR: Your visits to Jindo; did they also bring you up close to the fishing platforms? And the two gentlemen fishing at night who have such interesting and strange conversations, where did they come from?

PHM: In terms of the two fishermen, I think that reflected more of my own perspectives as I visited Jindo frequently. Initally I was quite suspicious and mistrusting and I only went there as an observer so I think a lot of myself got contained in those two characters.

TR: why did you make things more difficult for yourself by filming it in 3-D?

PHM: So, I’d actually studied 3-D because I had an initial interest in it beforehand. I didn’t actually think it would be compatible with this film. However when I was studying it in Korea there were a lot of impressions that it was incredibly realistic but I didn’t agree with it. It was somewhat exaggerated and distorted. I thought if it met the style of ‘A Fish’ it would promote a new feeling to the film.

TR: I’ve seen it in both 3-D and 2-D and I prefer it in 3-D.

Question from someone in the audience: I found the detective character very intriguing I was trying to work out where he came from. Is there anything you could tell us about that character specifically?

PHM: The private detective in the beginning can be seen as a real life character. Then as the film develops he develops and he also dies. And then he becomes a mentor who guides the husband to meet his own death.

Q: I really liked the film. I had a question about the fishermen: they talk about the fish in a patronizing way. Did you want to promote a more respectful attitude towards animals that people kill and eat or did you just like the idea of a talking fish? 

PHM: I hadn’t thought of it that way. The idea of the shamanistic ritual, where the spirit enters the body… In Korea there’s a lot of thinking that this is more akin to an exorcism than it’s an act of healing someone or trying to cure someone. However when I met the shamans in Jindo I found that they were actually incredibly human and were trying to heal themselves. They go through this process where the spirit enters them and them they have to be able to vocalize and or speak through their mouths for this process to be completed. Before that can happen they will be struggling a lot and it’s a very difficult process.

Q: I have a question about the scene where the professor looks in the mirror and sees his wife. My curiosity is about whether you came up with this as your own invention. I’ve watched it in other films by Tarkovsky and I was interested in the genesis of that sequence.

PHM: In fact when I was making this film I hadn’t actually had in mind any other models. But before when I had made the film I received a question about Tarkovsky. I should have thought about that before. But for me, the use of the mirror was thought of as a window in which you can perceive yourself. There were others throughout the film, these devices where you can reflect yourself, for example the detective who repeats the same lines several times; that’s also a reflection and that’s why I used it.

Q: I’m a composer working in the UK: Chang Sung-a, and I was very impressed by your use of music which had a lot of restraint, whereas in contrast in Korea there is a lot of importance based on melody and having very beautiful melodies or sound and use of sound effects. Whereas in your film I thought the use of sound was restrained and I thought that made the film much more interesting and quite brilliant. I wondered if that was something specific you had instructed to the composer or whether it was something you had suggested.

PHM: There were broadly two approaches to the music in this film in that When I was at Jindo there were the people who were making the sounds themselves and I used a mic to record the sounds when there was one person at a time in their own space rather than in a studio separately which I then used in the film. Secondly I have a music director who I worked with in my next film Alone: he would repeatedly and continuously make edits as I suggested. And he’s somebody that very much unconditionally supports my work. He would change the music as I suggested many times throughout.

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