In conjunction with London Korean Film Festival 2016, Director Kim Sung Soo 김성수 and actor Jung Woo Sung 정우성 were invited to a dialogue at SOAS University of London to discuss about their latest collaboration in Asura: The City of Madness 아수라 (2016). This movie is also their fourth time working together since Beat 비트 (1997), hence when Director Kim was asked about Jung’s influence on him over the past years, he gave a witty reply: “I managed to live well because of him (Jung)”.
The pair has worked together to produce great films like Beat, City of the Rising Sun 태양은 없다 (1998) and Musa 무사 (2001). Speaking of their relationship, both agreed that it has transcended beyond professional exchanges between a director and an actor as colleagues to become close friends who cherish and inspire each other. Jung continued to joke that if Director Kim approached him saying “Let’s go kill all bad characters”, it could just be another new chapter together with him.
The dialogue later progressed into an insightful discussion on Asura, which Director Kim described to be his “fantasy” and dream come true.
At one look, Asura may just be typical of other related genres involving political instability, crime, lust for power and violence. However, the movie has its mesmerising point. All characters are portrayed to be bad or evil. Director Kim responded that it has been his dream to gather bad characters in a plot and eventually, have them going against each other. And so, Asura was created. He was also thankful that he was able to incorporate, and in fact, allow the theme of violence to be the overarching theme binding the plot and representing the movie.
“I really like violence” — Director Kim Sung Soo
In the fictitious city of Annam, Director Kim was able to unleash his imagination and depict violence to the extreme. Unlike typical movies where violence is often shown as a tool for the good to triumph over the bad, violence in Annam becomes a currency. Violence becomes a mean to trade with others, a way of communication to establish characters and method to create the web of relationships among the roles. Director Kim may have taken the meaning of violence to its extreme yet more importantly, he wished to convey the message that violence does not only take on the form of physical fighting. At times, “invisible violence” may be more cruel and devastating than the physical pain inflicted onto one, such as suppression by systems or oppression by the stronger. This was something he always had in mind for Asura.
The production has proved itself to be a box office smash when it was released in Korea and garnered numerous good reviews and recognitions, including invitation to premiere in Toronto Film Festival 2016. In the movie, Director Kim brought together few of Korea’s top actors like Hwang Jung Min 황정민, Ju Ji Hoon 주지훈, Kwak Do Won 곽도원 and Jung Man Sik 정만식 to portray the strong personalities in the movie.
As the session came to a successful end, Jung concluded with a thought-provoking statement for the audience who would be catching the movie.
“This film questions how far can one distant from violence or the possibility of freeing oneself from it” — Actor Jung Woo Sung
And violence, does it just take on a single visible form?
The London Korean Film Festival 2016 is held in the city from November 3rd to 17th.
The Fifth Parlour would like to thank SOAS University of London and London Korean Film Festival for the invitation.