On the second, scorching hot film festival day in Udine, the audience enthusiastically welcomed the chilling screening of Forgotten (which available also on Netflix), the film that took us for a ride in more ways than one. Only a day later, still not over the tale that gave us all a good scare even though it was technically a thriller, we sat down with the screenwriter, actor and director Jang Hang-jun, who kindly and with an unexpected, humorous vigour answered a few of our questions.
We should start at the beginning – what was the inspiration for this story?
About two and a half years ago, during Christmas, I met my friends and one of them had a cousin who left home for a while, but when he came back he didn’t seem the same, my friend didn’t think it was really him. So, I told him that he should look closely at his ‘cousin’ to see if he was different; it was a joke but that’s how I originally got the idea for this story. While we were drinking and joking around, we kept adding to the story, we talked about how his cousin might have the same voice and face but that it wasn’t really him. Then I thought about how it would be better in a story to make him into the main character’s brother, rather than his cousin. We talked about that for two hours, and the next day I couldn’t stop thinking about it; I thought this would make a good story for a film and started to write, and finished the screenplay after a year.
It was amazing how you made us feel for Jin-seok, at first we loved him, then we were terrified and eventually, we hated him. How did you build his character as a writer?
When I was a high school student, I was very interested in psychology and I read a lot of books by Freud and other experts. So, I was familiar with this topic, but in preparation for this project, I met with a specialist, and we went drinking to talk about this story. We had a special team from the Scientific Research Institute help us out as well. That’s how I began to build the character, but once I cast Kang Ha-neul, we went through the script together and talked about his character’s different emotions one by one.
Both Kang Ha-neul and Kim Mu-yeol had the challenging task of each portraying two very different characters on screen, how did you advise them as a director?
Of course, it was very challenging for them, but it was also very fun to explore multiple types of characters. In the end they didn’t feel any pressure when they took on the roles, because they really enjoyed this process. All three of us had a lot of fun talking about the characters while making the film, Kim Mu-yeol and I talked about his character’s history that wasn’t shown on screen, for example. We spoke about what life he might have had, how long he spent in the orphanage after losing his parents, and when he escaped from there – things like that.
*SPOILER ALERT* You really got us with that one ghost scene, but why did you only have one?
*MAJOR SPOILER ALERT* At first, I didn’t expect the audience to get so frightened, but the ghost is the girl that Jin-seok killed so this is part of his trauma, and he doesn’t want to remember what happened. That’s why he saw the ghost within his nightmare, but if I had too many ghost scenes, then it would have been a horror film rather than a thriller!
Looking at your filmography, you have made a lot of productions that are thrillers or use horror elements. Why are you interested in these themes in particular?
When I was younger, I mainly made comedies, but as I grew older, I wanted to show human feelings that we keep inside, and the thriller genre seemed best to explore them.
*SPOILERS AHEAD* Why did you have that final scene where Jin-seok and Yoo-seok meet before everything went wrong? What was your intention behind this?
Throughout the film, I only show the darkest moments of these two characters, so I wanted to show a brief, but happy, moment for them both. For Jin-seok, it was when he was moving to a new house with his family, and for Yoo-seok, it was when he was going to an amusement park with his family. Even if it was a small scene, I wanted to show that even these two characters could have a happy moment in their lives. During the final stages of editing this film, I was torn between keeping the scene or taking it out, I thought a lot about what was best and I decided to keep it in. If I could edit it again, then perhaps I would cut the scene completely, because I might have added too much.
We would like to thank Jang Hang-jun for taking the time to answer our questions, and the Udine Far East Film Festival team for arranging the interview.
Written and edited by Sanja Struna (View of Korean Cinema)
Interview transcription by Roxy Simons (MyM Buzz)
Interviewed by Sanja Struna (View of Korean Cinema) and Roxy Simons (MyM Buzz)
Both ‘Forgotten’ photos © Netflix
Cover photo and screening photo © Sanja Struna