Song Seung-hyun (The Korea Herald/Asia News Network)
Seoul, South Korea ●
Thu 3 December 2020
Director Lee Chung-hyun’s highly anticipated thriller The call was released via Netflix on Friday, after several delays to its theatrical release due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The release on Netflix means the film will not only be seen by Koreans, but by audiences in 190 countries, an advantage not lost on the 30-year-old director.
“It was interesting to get feedback from many people living overseas, especially from other Asian countries,” Lee said. The Korean Herald during a Google Meet interview on Tuesday. “My dad’s friend, who lives in Thailand, said he watched the movie. He didn’t even know that I had realized and watched it.
“The Call” director Lee Chung-hyun. (Netflix/The Korea Herald)
He said he also saw many posts on social media from viewers in countries like Singapore and Thailand who said they enjoyed the film.
“Unless it’s a popular blockbuster, it’s still difficult for general audiences overseas to get access to Korean films. But I think OTT (over-the-top) platforms have broken down that barrier,” he said.
However, he still expressed regret over the current pandemic situation.
“My film was originally supposed to be screened in theaters. I made the sound and music for the film to suit the theater facilities. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to present it to the public using movie theater sound facilities,” Lee said.
In The call, 28-year-old Seo-yeon (Park Shin-hye), returns to her parents’ house to find an outdated phone through which she connects to Yeong-sook (Jeon Jong-seo), who lives in the same house in 1999. Although ‘they’ve never met, over the phone, the two click quickly. All is well until Yeong-sook finds out about her terrible future, which makes her reckless. Yeong-sook then begins threatening Seo-yeon to change her future.
Lee’s new film is based on a British and Puerto Rican supernatural horror film The callerdirected by Matthew Parkhill.
Lee said he created scenes with the character calling Yeong-sook that don’t exist in the original film. Parkhill’s film involves scenes with the recipient of the phone call and only the caller’s voice.
Lee pointed out that he was trying to focus on portraying Yeong-sook correctly.
“I wanted to create a strong villainous female character, which you don’t often find in Korean movies,” Lee said. “I am fascinated by the story of an unstable female character who abruptly turns the well-ordered world upside down.”
He added that he liked Kill Bill Quentin Tarantino films and he was influenced by their strong female characters.
The call also depicts two different mother-daughter relationships – Yeong-sook and her mother and Seo-yeon and her mother.
“The film’s main plot is the battle of two main female characters, but its subplot is the relationship between mothers and daughters,” Lee said. He noted that he wanted to show how the different choices girls make about their relationship with their mothers make a huge difference in their future.
Yeong-sook’s (Lee El) mother, who is mudang, a modern-day shaman practicing Korea’s oldest folk religion, is a character who does not exist in the original film.
“I thought the character fit well with this time-slip movie. Mudang claims they can predict the future. Lee El’s character is the only one who sees the future and holds Yeong-suk,” he said.
The call is Lee’s first feature film.
The filmmaker said he was in high school when he decided to become a director.
“When I was in middle school, I watched high school students at art school perform the musical Fame. At the time, I had an abstract idea that I wanted to be part of something like this,” he said. “So I went to art school and there I became fascinated by cinema.”
With his previous short film Bargain (2015), Lee won several awards, including Jury Prize at the 33rd Busan International Short Film Festival in 2016 and Best Short Film at the 11th Paris Korean Film Festival in 2017.
“I decided to make a thriller for my first feature film because I was used to the genre. Bargain was also a thriller. I wanted to start with something that I can do well,” added Lee.
Lee also hinted that he was considering a new kind of thriller that had never been seen before as his next feature film.
When asked what he would say if he could make a phone like in the movie and connect with himself before creating The callhe said he would only be cheering on his past and not asking for anything to change.
“There are over 100 little things I would like to do differently. But I will choose not to tell him. I’ll just tell him to go ahead and make a movie,” he said.
This article appeared on the website of The Korea Herald newspaper, member of the Asia News Network and media partner of the Jakarta Post.