Hangul Celluloid: What overall themes were you discussing in 'Metamorphoses'?
Oh In-chun: This film, <Metamorphoses>, does not necessarily have a serious theme. On making it, I tried to make an entertaining film and a film that I would want to watch, from the genres and interests that I have. Nevertheless, there is a main theme running through the whole story. I should say it is "neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife" from the Ten Commandments, and a message that the truth is not always visible.
Hangul Celluloid: There is a great deal of humor in 'Metamorphoses', both in plot and dialogue, including a very funny reference to you by one of the characters. Was the majority of the humor conceived at the script writing stage?
Oh In-chun: Thank you for enjoying the movie. Most of them were formed in the process of writing the script, and there are many scenes that came up while working on the storyboard with the art director, Frances E. Ok.
The scene at the forest where the gangster leader, Dong Hyeon-bae, talks about my look was made at the filming stage. I asked the actor to reference my name and to say whatever impression he had about me, in an abusing way. I made him do that on purpose. I captured the performance that I wanted, but it is true that he was reading my face throughout the whole scene.
Hangul Celluloid: 'Metamorphoses' is, at the same time, brutal, bloody and extremely funny. Which of the elements were conceived first in the script writing process, or did you, in fact, set out to make a film which merges genres from the very beginning?
Oh In-chun: At the script-writing stage, the film was a chase-action thriller, not necessarily combining many different genres. The working title was <Hit and Run>. A man picks up a baseball while walking down the park. When a gang asks him to give the ball back, he throws the ball with a wind-up gesture, just to show off. Then one of the gang gets hit by the ball on the face, and an all-day long chase-action starts from there. No comedy was involved. However, while progressing the script, I began to think: "Do I have to restrict my imagination with some realistic standards? This is my last film at school for graduation. Let's do whatever I want to do."
That's why this film has so many genres within it, making the movie a so-called hybrid.
Hangul Celluloid: There are a number of specific visual techniques used in 'Metamorphoses' which suit the scenes perfectly. Were any of those scenes changed or created to allow specific visual techniques to be used? What influenced your choice of specific visual techniques?
Oh In-chun: Many scenes were influenced by films that I like. The split screen when the gangsters were taken down was motivated by the films of Brian De Palma, who is my favourite director. The baseball going up in the air (when the security guard and the gangsters start to fight) was a homage from the gangster movie <Exiled> by Johnny To, but I arranged it with my style. The scene where the security guard takes down the gang with a police baton was filmed by attaching the mini HD camera to the actor's body. I wanted to show the dynamic action in the first person point of view. The scene in which the leader of the gang and the security guard start a dagger fight was influenced by <Hunted>, by William Friedkin. I mixed a sense of oriental martial arts and rhythmical editing to fit the style of the movie.
Hangul Celluloid: The acting in 'Metamorphoses' is also superb. How did you go about casting the film?
Oh In-chun: In the case of Dong Hyeon-bae, I saw his profile and found out that he had some experiences on short films, so I contacted him myself. He was the first to become a cast member. Yoo Jeong-ho starred in a film which I worked on as part of the staff. Sung Jae-hee, the security guard, was introduced to me by Yoo Jeong-ho Yoo. Besides that, Dong Hyeon-bae recommended the other gangsters and the actress was referenced by another actor that I worked with before.
Hangul Celluloid: Regarding the female character in 'Metamorphoses': There are many standard conventions regularly used in films portraying that type of character (I'm choosing not to mention her specific "type" of character, so as not to spoil the story for those who haven't seen the film). What were your main reasons for altering those familiar ideas?
Oh In-chun: There is no specific reason, but I have personally thought that a setup with many standard conventions - or clichés - is too obvious and predictable. Everything in this film starts with the female character, so her impression had to be strong no matter the length of her appearance in the film. That's why I tried the alterations.
Hangul Celluloid: How do you feel 'Metamorphoses' fits alongside other Korean films (past or present)?
Oh In-chun: Compared to other Korean (feature and short) films, <Metamorphoses> is in a different position, I think. There are many films of different genres made in Korea; however, it is true there are less horror-action fantasy films comparatively. So it was a challenge for me to make such a movie as a short, not even a feature film.
Hangul Celluloid: How much did financial constraints affect the making of 'Metamorphoses'?
Oh In-chun: Originally, there should have been more gangsters. The action and chase sequence were supposed to be more sophisticated and various, and the gang members were to become more like zombies as the story develops. They were to tear up their own bodies and fight with them. However, there was no financial support from the mainstream, and because of the lack of budget and time (<Metamorphoses> was filmed in 5 days), I gave up on those. I hoped to have more time and budget, but I am satisfied with the completed film.
Hangul Celluloid: Before 'Metamorphoses', you made a film called 'A Moment' which was filmed entirely in Beijing. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Oh In-chun: <A Moment> is a film that I worked on before <Metamorphoses>. It's a co-operation project between Korea National University of Arts and Beijing Film Academy. I was the director, scriptwriter and editor. It was all filmed in Beijing. It's a kidnap story about a Korean man who has a grudge against one Chinese couple. The main actor is Dow Shawn, who starred as a protagonist in <Under the Hawthorn Tree> by Yimou Zhang. So, <A Moment> is his debut film. A lot different from <Metamorphoses>, rather a static and heavy thriller.
Hangul Celluloid: Are the ideas of character metamorphosis or transformation also present in your other work?
Oh In-chun: If "metamorphosis" means not only external but also internal and psychological transition, this idea of transformation always appears in my films.
Hangul Celluloid: How important are foreign cinema markets, such as the UK, to you as a director?
Oh In-chun: Cinema is a kind of art that cannot exist without the audience. A film subsists only when there is a feedback from the audience who watch it. To me, it is the most important thing that my film meets with many different audiences, not only Korean, but also the audience in the UK. Therefore, the foreign cinema markets are really significant to me.
Hangul Celluloid: Which other filmmakers and films have inspired you in your career up until now?
Oh In-chun: It really is a hard question to answer because I have so many directors and films that influenced me. I always thinking there is something which teaches me a lesson in whatever I see. Even watching TV drama is a process of learning, besides being entertainment, but if I have to answer, there are certain directors and films that made me dream becoming of a film director when I was young.
In the sense of action editing, I was strongly influenced by <A Better Tomorrow> series and <The Killer> by John Woo. For the entertainment of a genre film, <RoboCop> series and <Predator> series are the teachers.
David Cronenberg's films taught me to seek a character in depth, and Brian De Palma's style with cinematic technique influenced me a lot. And I cannot miss out those Hong Kong films of the 1980s, such as <Aces Go Places> series and horror (Jiang Shi) movies. These films let me explore the sense of comedy.
The old Korean films are more influential to me, rather than recent Korean films. As a kid, I watched numerous so-called B-action films, and these are still part of my motives. Scenes from the classic action movies of Lee Doo-yong and Jeong Chang-hwa still remain impressive.
Hangul Celluloid: There is a common misconception in the UK, among those who haven't seen a lot of Korean cinema, that Korean films are inherently violent. What are your thoughts on this?
Oh In-chun: Well, I guess it's just a little misunderstanding since they usually only introduce plain cruel and violent movies overseas, instead of introducing the ones with entertainment of genre. I don't really see a problem in this misunderstanding though. I remember back in the days when I used to watch Hong Kong movies, I also had a misunderstanding that all Hong Kong movies are about someone shooting double pistols. The Korean film industry does not only have cruel, violent style movies, they also have a lot of movies of different genres.
However, it is also true that something like <Metamorphoses>, which is a hybrid of genres, is hard to find.
Hangul Celluloid: 'Metamorphoses' has been screened at several international film festivals. How much did those screenings help in getting the film more widely known to Korean and worldwide audiences?
Oh In-chun: Film festivals surely helped the film to become known more widely, but this is a short film, and the screening is not continuous. So, compared to feature films, there is a limitation for it to be introduced more widely - which is sad.
Hangul Celluloid: Have you already got plans for your next project? If so, could you tell us a little bit about it?
Oh In-chun: At the moment, I do have a project that I'm getting prepared for, since I got an offer. It's a feature film and the genre is going to be occult, horror, and action I think.
And I will continuously work on short films as well. I have a dream, which is to make at least one film a year until whenever I possibly can, and it doesn't matter if it they are short or feature films. I can never be happier than when I'm making a film.
I do have a few things in mind too. One of these is an omnibus of short films, after getting a director each from Korea (in this case, I'll be the Korean one), UK and another country. Then, with the given budget, theme, setup and genres, we’ll each make a short film each about 25 minutes long. After all the editing, I’ll make these short films into one omnibus film to complete it.
This is something similar to the "Dual Project" that Yukihiko Tsutsumi and Ryuhei Kitamura of Japan did. These two directors freely made a middle length film, about 60 minutes long, with the same theme that "two people are fighting each other for some reason in one place." Maybe if you think of <Three, Monster> it might help you understand better, though it might be a little different.
If this project actually happens, I'm sure it will be very interesting to see how, with the same theme and setup, there are different ways to express it.
Hangul Celluloid: Is there anything that you would like to say to someone who is about to watch 'Metamorphoses' for the first time?
Oh In-chun: Enjoy the movie as it is!
Hangul Celluloid: And a final, rather silly, question: Have you ever drunk black garlic juice? [Black garlic juice features in 'Metamorphoses']
Oh In-chun: I really want to try it, but haven't got a chance because it's too expensive.
Hangul Celluloid: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me.