SciFi Japan

    Bong Joon-ho`s MOTHER Production Notes

    New Murder Mystery from the Director of THE HOST Source: Magnolia Pictures Official Movie Site: (US), (Korea) Special Thanks to Marina Bailey MOTHER (Madeo, 2009), the latest film from award-winning Korean director Bong Joon-ho (THE HOST) is a unique murder mystery about a mother`s primal love for her son. The movie has been picked up for release in the United States by Magnolia Pictures and begins its theatrical run on March 12th. Check for theaters and screening times.

    US poster for MOTHER, the new film from writer/ director Bong Joon-ho. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures. © 2009 CJ Entertainment and Barunson

    The following production notes are courtesy of Magnolia Pictures...


    A film by BONG Joon-ho Running time: 129 min. Rated R for language, some sexual content, violence and drug use 2009 Film Independent Spirit Awards (Nominee – Best Foreign Film) Official Selection: 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival 2009 Cannes Film Festival 2009 Toronto Film Festival 2009 Tribeca Film Festival 2009 New York Film Festival 2009 AFI FEST


    Mother is a devoted single parent to her simple-minded twenty-seven-year-old son, Do-joon. Often a source of anxiety to his mother, Do-joon behaves in foolish or simply dangerous ways. One night, while walking home drunk, he encounters a school girl who he follows for a while before she disappears into a dark alley. The next morning, she is found dead in an abandoned building and Do-joon is accused of her murder. An inefficient lawyer and an apathetic police force result in a speedy conviction. His mother refuses to believe her beloved son is guilty and immediately undertakes her own investigation to find the girl’s killer. In her obsessive quest to clear her son’s name, Mother steps into a world of unimaginable chaos and shocking revelations.


    Everyone has a mother, and everyone has a precise idea of what a mother is. This is the person that cherishes each of us most, who is the most gentle to us, and the most irritating. Many feelings collide on this issue. This is a person who is strong that we know well. The relationship between a son and his mother is the basis for all human relationships. Countless novels, films, and television programs have approached the mother figure, but I wanted to explore it for myself, and see where I could take it on a cinematic level; and push it to the extreme. I wanted to make a film that digs profoundly at what is extreme and powerful, like in the heart of a fireball. In this sense, MOTHER is a challenge for me because my preceding films were all stories that tended towards extension; if a murder allowed me to discuss the ‘80s in Korea (MEMORIES OF MURDER), and a monster (THE HOST) allowed me to speak about family and the United States, then MOTHER is quite the contrary. It is a film wherein all the forces converge at the heart of things. The figure of the mother has been seen before. It’s very banal, but I see this as a new approach, and I hope it will be perceived that way. Like something that is familiar from home, but really came from abroad. - BONG JOON-HO


    THE ORIGIN OF MOTHER The project MOTHER began with actress Kim Hye-ja, an almost fifty-year veteran of the Korean film and television industry. For most Koreans, Kim Hye-ja is an icon of motherhood and its virtues, but Bong Joon-ho saw another facet to the actress. He conceived the story of MOTHER to capture Kim’s little-recognized psychological intensity and emotional sensitivity, and to illuminate the unseen power in the destructive side of her personality. THE MOTHER FIGURE Bong’s films have intentionally subverted genre conventions while shrewdly manipulating them, and they have been welcomed by audiences because of, or in spite of it. MOTHER is no exception. Unlike his previous works, for which the history and social reality of Korea and epic-scale fantastical premises were important considerations, MOTHER has been distilled into two essential ingredients—a “mother” and her “life-and-death struggle.” Emphasizing her inner turmoil rather than outside events, the film forces viewers to participate in a mother’s life-and-death struggle, and to follow the emotional contours of her terrible journey. As Bong describes it, MOTHER is like a magnifying glass that focuses warm sunlight to a burning point. It is a drama that unfolds with great intensity, a story rooted in the fundamental nature of motherhood. THE CREATIVE TEAM MOTHER’s production team is the best and brightest working in Korean cinema today. Production company Barunson has worked on such unique films as the dark-fantasy reworking of HANSEL AND GRETEL, and the so-called Asian spaghetti western THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD; production designer Ryu Seong-hie conceived beautiful, otherworldly environments for A BITTERSWEET LIFE, OLDBOY, THE HOST and Park Chan-wook’s THIRST; composer Lee Byeong-woo contributed memorable scores to A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, THE HOST and other visionary works of art; and the stunning anamorphic cinematography, simultaneously majestic and intimate, is the work of Hong Kyung-pyo (Alex Hong), whose previous films include IL MARE, SAVE THE GREEN PLANET and TAEGUKGI: THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR.

    LOCATIONS There were few concerns regarding Bong’s suggestion that the film rely primarily on location shooting to enhance naturalism. His conditions also appeared deceptively simple at the outset: that the locations look mundane and not strongly indicative of local colors; that the resulting village environment should not feel cobbled together from disparate elements; and that functionally differentiated zones should be allotted for various settings. When scouting began, however, the staff quickly realized that their job was much trickier than they had initially thought: South Korea is not a big country. In the end, four teams spent close to twenty weeks traveling a total of 80,000 kilometers (49,709 miles) and collecting 40,000 photos. Eventually the production team constructed a “village map,” replete with meteorological and topographical details indicating the position of the sun in each season, the emotionally indicative landscapes, and convenience of transportation. Sadly, construction is so common in Korea that perfect locations often turned into construction sites seemingly overnight. Truly, the energy poured into location hunting for MOTHER rivaled that spent on casting. But the staff’s Herculean efforts have paid off brilliantly in a seamless composite of extraordinarily diverse locations. CASTING One of the undisputed strengths of a Bong Joon-ho film is its naturalness. The core characters in MOTHER were custom written with specific actors in mind. For the supporting roles, actors with theatrical training who had the skills to quietly project the required themes were given priority, regardless of whether they had previous exposure in popular media or not. As a result, more than a few excellent actors and actresses can boast that MOTHER is their debut film. Thus, director Bong ensures his unique brand of ensemble drama, in which every performer’s distinct color harmoniously merges with every other’s to create a natural whole. ART DIRECTION AND COSTUME DESIGN MOTHER’s art and costumes are devoted to the fundamental task of creating the fictional space in which the characters and viewers can breathe the same air, as it were. Glamorous costumes are nowhere to be seen. Production and costume designers had to keep their work close to lived reality, which ironically required more research and care than usual. Color variation was impeccably controlled, in order to avoid obstructing the emotional flow of the film. The sets built for the film—Mother’s apothecary, the photo studio constructed somewhere in Cholla Province, and an abandoned house set up in Busan, were so realistic and so organically “a part of landscape” that curious villagers would approach the production crew asking after who occupied the buildings. The production’s driving principle was that “Mother’s life-and-death struggle” was always the most important single element.


    DIRECTOR/CO-WRITER – BONG JOON-HO After completing only three feature films, BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE, MEMORIES OF MURDER and THE HOST, writer and director Bong Joon-ho’s undeniable talent pushed him to the forefront of the Korean film industry. MEMORIES OF MURDER was a gripping thriller about a series of unsolved murders in the 1980s. THE HOST followed a family as they dealt with a monster that rose from the Han River in the middle of Seoul. The films of Bong Joon-ho regularly, and brilliantly, break with convention, thanks to an imagination that is not confined to the accepted parameters of humor, suspense, or horror. Bong Joon-ho remains a director of intimacy even as he puts himself in the public eye, and despite holding the Korean box office admissions record (with 13 million for THE HOST), he chose to examine the simple figure of the mother for his latest film. MOTHER dissolves Korean social realism and family drama in a vat of larger-than-life imagination. Bong turns his camera on a figure well known to all, once again exploring it through unexpected cinematic aspects. FILMOGRAPHY 2008 SHAKING TOKYO- Short Film (One segment of the omnibus film TOKYO!: co-directors Michel Gondry and Leos Carax) Cannes International Film Festival (Un Certain Regard) 2006 THE HOST Cannes International Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight) Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (The Golden Raven Award), Fantasporto Oporto International Film Festival (Best Director Prize) Sitges International Film Festival (Orient Express – Casa Asia Prize) 2003 MEMORIES OF MURDER San Sebastian International Film Festival (Best Director, Best New Director Prize) Torino International Film Festival (Best Screenplay, Audience’ Choice Award) Tokyo International Film Festival (Asian Film Award) Cognac International Thriller Film Festival (Grand Prix Cognac) 2001 BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE Hong Kong International Film Festival (FIPRESCI Award) Munich International Film Festival (Best New Director Award)


    MOTHER – KIM HYE-JA Kim Hye-ja plays the mother whose courage and resolution are tested after she is drawn into a fight to save her mentally challenged son from accusations of murder. The star of THE RUSTIC DIARY, one of the longest running and most beloved television series in Korean history, Kim Hye-ja nonetheless struggled with the stereotypical image of an endlessly tolerant, boundlessly loving mother. With MOTHER, this grande dame of acting has completely subverted the almost sacred maternal image she helped construct over the last thirty years.

    FILMOGRAPHY TV: 2008 MOM’S DEAD UPSET 2006 GOONG (PRINCESS HOURS) 2004 CHIEF HONG`S AUTUMN 2002-1980 THE RUSTIC DIARY 1999 ROSE AND BEANSTALK 1997 YOU, AND ME 1995-1963 BRIDE DIARY, DEAR, I REGRET, SAND CASTLE, WHAT IS LOVE, WINTER MIST, WHAT KEEPS A WOMAN ALIVE, MOTHER’S OCEAN, etc. FEATURE FILMS: 1999 MAYONNAISE (dir. Yoon In-ho) 1982 LATE AUTUMN (dir. Kim Soo-yong) - Best Actress Prize, Manila Film Festival INTERVIEW WITH KIM HYE-JA "It was in 2004 when a young director came looking for me, wanting to make a film with me. That was how I met Bong Joon-ho. What really struck me then was that he remembered some dialogue and performances from my old TV dramas with great accuracy and fondness. I was taken aback that he could remember all that." "I had been away from the film industry in recent years because, let’s be honest, there weren’t good new roles written for someone like me. What they were sending me was the same old stuff. But MOTHER… was quite different. Director Bong explained how he wanted to challenge the stereotype. Another difference was that in TV dramas, there was the attitude, `Ms. Kim, you are such a veteran; I think you know what to do.` But I was determined to do something different this time, so I asked Bong to push me to the extreme. And he was only happy to oblige! On the first shoot we did eighteen takes, some kind of a record for me, and by the seventeenth take I was thinking, `Oh my God, I am ruining this movie!` And it was like that for five months. Bong knows exactly what he wants and he simply never gives up until he gets it. Very tough but very admirable." "By the middle of the shoot I so thoroughly identified with Mother that just looking at Won Bin (Do-joon) would make me cry. I had to unwind quite a bit after the shooting wrapped. The whole experience was like a dream, and very hard to let go. Of course, I am wracked with a new anxiety, half anxious, half expectant, thinking about how the audience will respond to her." DO-JOON – WON BIN Won Bin plays Do-joon, the naïve and simple son who gets mixed up in a murder. Mother’s twenty-seven-year-old son Do-joon is a true innocent, but in reality his life is an endless series of hazards. An entirely dependent man-child ironically gifted with striking beauty, no one in the village takes him seriously as an adult. Seen merely as an extension of his mother, all in the village are stunned when the police arrest him for the murder of a teenager. Won Bin has consistently been cast as the ideal younger brother and son in Korean films. He left lasting impressions on audiences the world over for the Korean war epic Taegukgi and the powerful human drama My Brother. Won Bin returns to the big screen after a four-year hiatus, portraying a complex character belied by seemingly simplistic behavior.

    FILMOGRAPHY TV: 2002 FRIENDS 2000 AUTUMN FAIRY TALE 1999 READY GO 1997 A PROPOSAL/OUR STORY FEATURE FILMS: 2004 MY BROTHER (dir. Ahn Gwon-tae) / TAEGUKGI (dir. Kang Jegyu) 2001 GUNS & TALKS (dir. Jang Jin) INTERVIEW WITH WON BIN “When I read the screenplay for MOTHER, I had a strong sense that it would be a turning point in my acting career. Do-joon is not an easy role to play. He is, frankly, frustrating, due to the fact that he is a true innocent. The risk of audiences rejecting him is definitely there." "Director Bong Joon-ho expressed strong dislike for an `acting-like` performance that would draw attention to itself and not to the character. But he is astonishingly caring as a director and very sensitive to actors’ needs. I had to find a way to portray innocence itself and not just project an `innocent look.` This whole task was overwhelmingly difficult but was also tremendously appealing. I had a ball discovering the parts of myself that I was not aware of. I learned so much from just observing Ms. Kim Hye-ja. I cannot think of a better role model for an actor." "This was my first feature film project after four years away, but every day on the set was so joyful, full of excitement and adventure. I really thank Mr. Bong for casting me in this role, one that any actor would have gone out on his limb to nab.”


    CAST Mother: KIM Hye-ja YOON Do-joon: WON Bin Jin-tae: JIN Goo Je-mun: YOON Jae-moon Mi-sun: JUN Mi-sun Sepaktakraw detective: SONG Sae-beauk Ragman: LEE Young-suck MOON Ah-jung: MOON Hee-ra Mina: CHUN Woo-hee Chief: KIM Byoung-soon Mr. GONG Suk-ho (lawyer): YU Mou-young Thin high schooler: JUNG Young-ki Fat high schooler: KO Kyu-phill Girl with scar: LEE Mi-do Ah-jung’s grandmother: KIM Gin-goo Jong-pal: KIM Hong-jip Mr. Gong’s assistant: MIN Kyung-jin Mina’s mother: CHO Kyung-sook Shop owner: PARK Myung-shin Detective: YOON Yeong-geol Golf-course dean: KWON Byeong-gil Golf-course cart driving professor: KWON Beom-tak Golf-course runaway professor: HA Deok-sung Golf-course fat professor: YUM Dong-hyun Ah-jung’s relative: LEE Jung-eun Ah-jung’s relative: YIM Geun-ah Ah-jung’s pregnant relative: HWANG Young-hee Hye-ja’s customer: KIM Mi-joon Hye-ja’s customer: HONG Gyung-yeon Young Do-joon: KIM Tae-wan Prisoner: YOO In-soo Prisoner wearing glasses: CHO Moon-ui Charcoal man: KWACK Byung-gyu Pharmacist: LEE Dae-hyun Ah-jung’s friend with scar: LIM Sung-mi Prison guard Uncle Jong-do: SUNG Joon-seo Journalist: LIM Hyoung-guk Policewoman: HAN Jee-jee Miss KIM: KIM Min-jung Middle schooler playing game: JANG Pil-gyung Middle schooler eating rice cake: MOON Bock-dong Middle schooler eating fish cake: KIM Tae-hwan Middle schooler wearing glasses: LEE Seung-hyung Waiter at Manhattan: NAM Sung-ho Employee at a supermarket: LEE Ok-joo Detective wearing leather jacket: KIM Jung-wook Barmaid: KIM Bo-gyung Barmaid mixing drinks: LEE Byeol-im Barmaid clapping hands: LEE Hyun-joo Caddie: HAN Mee Mr. Park Jong-pyo (prosecutor): CHOI Jae-won Dr Yoon Jong-gu: LEE Gyu-hyun Man watching spot investigation: KIM Gyu-nam Man watching a car accident: JANG Yong-joo British boy: CHOI So-mang British boy’s dad: Christopher BRISCOE Waiter at a karaoke: OH Won-sik Prison guard at a corridor: PARK Tae-joon Young woman at a coach station: YOON Hye-jin Detective: JEONG Dong Detective: KWON Ki-hoon Taxi driver: SHIN Young-sik Laundress: SHIN-Jae-young Cook-pot at grill house: PARK In-mok Taxi driver: YOO Jong-hwan CREW CJ Entertainment and Barunson present a Barunson production Directed by: BONG Joon-ho Story by: BONG Joon-ho Screenplay by: PARK Eun-kyo, BONG Joon-ho Executive Producer: Miky LEE Co-executive Producers: Katharine KIM, MOON Yang-kwon Co-associate Executive Producers: Bob SUH, KIM Hak-beom, NAM Ki-moon, BAK Hyun-tae, SHIN Kang-young, PARK June-Tae, CHUNG Won-suk, CHO Il-hyung Produced by: MOON Yang-kwon Producers: SEO Woo-sik, PARK Tae-joon Associate Executive Producer: Joon H. CHOI Investment Executive: Sean LEE Co-investment Executive: LEE Youngjoo Cinematography: HONG Kyung-pyo Lighting: CHOI Cheol-soo, PARK Dong-soon Production Design: RYU Seong-hie Editor: MOON Sae-kyoung Music: LEE Byeong-woo Sound Recordist: LEE Byeong-ha Sound Supervisor: CHOI Tae-young Costume Designer: CHOI Se-yeon Hair & Make-up: HWANG Hyun-kyu Special Effects: JUNG Do-ahn, YU Yeong-il VFX: AZworks VFX Supervisor/Visual Effects: YI Zeon-hyoung Martial Arts: JUNG Doo-hong, HEO Myeong-haeng

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