After the trauma, depression and a three-year break, Korean director Kim Ki-Duk bares his soul in ‘Arirang,' which resuscitates him as it makes waves globally.
Kim Ki-Duk is one of Korea's best-known contemporary directors, whose oeuvre of 15 films have won awards at the top festivals of the world. Many of them have also been screened at the film festivals in India. His latest, ‘Arirang,' has made waves globally, because it is a personal documentary, where the director bares his soul, following a recent bout of depression. This happened after his actress attempted suicide during the making of ‘Dream' in 2008, which totally shook him up. He retreated to a tent in the mountains and took a three-year break from cinema.
The making of ‘Arirang' this year and its world wide impact, resuscitated the director. The movie won the top award in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Festival this year, and since then has been travelling to many festivals around the world.
‘Arirang' may well be the progenitor of a new genre of cinema, where the director turns the camera on himself and makes public, a very private side of him. The film is shockingly personal and daringly frank. That's why it was refreshing to meet the reclusive filmmaker for a conversation and to learn that he is happy to be back in the circuit again. In fact, Kim Ki-Duk's ‘Amen,' screened at the recent Busan festival, had also made an impact for its uniquely personalised style and symbolistic story. At the recent Eurasia Film Festival in Almaty, Kazakhstan, he was the chairman of the international jury. Excerpts:
Your film ‘Arirang' defies all ‘genres,' how do you describe it?
I guess it's a docu, drama, fantasy.
It's almost like a home-video. Who shot it ?
I did. It was just me and the camera. I made the film for myself.
Then how did it go to the Cannes festival?
My company, Finecut, sent it and we were all so surprised when it got selected.
Were you surprised when it won a top prize, there?
Yes, totally. In fact, I was very embarrassed!
What was the reaction at Cannes?
I don't really know. But Emir Kustirca, the Chairman of the Jury, told me that every filmmaker should see this film!
Did you expect it go to so many festivals?
I never expected it. And I don't watch the film at the festivals, because it disturbs me.
Does the film say everything about you and your films?
I revealed my innermost thoughts in it.
Your films deal with Life and Death themes, so why were you traumatised by the incident involving your actress?
Maybe because I had not faced the reality of death before.
How was the three-year break from cinema?
Very good for me. I suffered a lot, but I'm cleansed and strong now…
I've accepted the imbalances of Life. I know that happiness and sorrow go side by side
Will your films be different now?
I think so. After all, I'm a humanist, and my films reflect my thoughts and experiences of Life. They ask questions, because I ask questions, and I will continue to do so
Do you believe in any religion?
I believe in a higher force and respect all religions - Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism. I'm troubled by the religious disturbances around the world.
Why do you like the Korean song ‘Arirang Arrayo' so much?
It's about the ups and downs of life. It speaks about my upward spiral now and inspires me. That's why I sing it a lot !
Your future plans?
To travel around the world and make films. In fact, I made ‘Amen', which I shot in France and Italy and it was screened at the San Sebastian and Busan festivals.
What is it about?
Well, it has to do with a new-born baby. It's about Life.
Is it because you have re-gained your creative energies?
Yes. Isn't that what every filmmaker wants?
Do you have any hobbies?
I love pottering around and creating mechanical contraptions that you saw in the film- the hand-made coffee machine, corn machine, gun!
Has fame changed you as a person?
No. I'm the same person. I loved mechanical creations before and still do. I didn't know English before - and still don't.
Your thoughts on Asian cinema?
Like life. They all have their up and down movement, including Korean cinema.
What about Indian cinema?
I've seen a number of Indian films and admire many. I would love to visit India, but don't know when. I'll be starting another film soon.