With his blockbuster pandemic thriller The Flu infecting UK cinemas, Korean director Kim Sung-su took some time out to talk to Movie Ramblings.


Q:You’ve been away from filmmaking for a few years.  What was it about this film that inspired you?

KS: Over the last 10 years I was working on several action films, which all unfortunately folded, so I was feeling very down about that and a friend offered me this script.  When I read it, I thought it was very interesting in terms of being able to portray realistic horror and also the transition of something very everyday and trivial turning into this huge disaster so I thought it would be entertaining to make this film.


Q:You mentioned horror.  Do you see this film, on some level, as a horror film?

KS: Frankly speaking, I don’t like to see horror films, I like watching disaster films and there are specific disaster films I like and there are others I don’t like.   I think Korean people find entertaining the element of realistic horror The Flu portrays, how it expands and spirals out of control. What they don’t like are the elements that are terrifying or scary, the parts of the film that can be quite conventional, but generally, in terms of how audience members receive the film, I’m not too sure.

The themes may be realistic but I don’t think the story itself is realistic.  However, it’s influenced by personal experiences of being part of disasters or events.  When I was a very much younger, watching the scenes of Auschwitz on TV left an impression as a child.  When I was 20, in Korea there was the incident in Gwangju (the massacre of over 130 pro-democracy protestors in 1980 by the South Korean military), when 9/11 happened I was returning from the Toronto International Film Festival and also observing the disasters in China, Thailand and Japan, all of these experiences that I watched or observed or was part of, I turned into images that I wanted to portray in this film.

The landscapes of disasters I’ve witnessed naturally seeped through into this film.


Q:With Snowpiercer recently being cut by Harvey Weinstein for its release in the West, were you forced to cut the film or make any changes to receive distribution outside of Korea?  The Americans aren’t exactly portrayed in a positive light…

KS: I didn’t think this film would be screened outside of Korea but, retrospectively, the way I approached the Americans in this film was a bit too conventional when I think about it and actually the person playing the American is a British writer called Boris Stout.

The American story was included for the Korean audience, to suggest that when this type of disaster strikes unexpectedly in Korea we might not have the capacity and resources to deal with it and we would seek help from our friend and ally, America.  But the attitude maintained by the Americans when they do come and help us would be from a very selfish point of view which is inevitable.

Your unhappiness and how that’s dealt with is very different from how you deal with your neighbour’s unhappiness or tragedy – it’s a very different perspective that you take.  And to reflect that in modern society or an urban/city environment or the relationships between governments, I think there is a degree of selfishness that’s very much present and I wanted to portray that.  In terms of the Korean government trying to deal with a disaster in a small city or the US trying to deal with Korea as a country, other people’s tragedies are their own and there’s the fear that other people’s tragedy will now become my tragedy as well.  Someone else’s unhappiness is simply theirs not mine.




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