Shortly before the world premiere of Collective Invention (돌연변이) at the Toronto International Film Festival, I met with its director and writer, Kwon Oh Kwang (권오광) to chat with him about his film. Keep reading to see what he had to say! And if you’re curious about the film, don’t forget to check out my review of the film.
**Please note: this interview may contain spoilers.**
Can you introduce yourself and your film, Collective Invention?
I’m a director called Kwon Oh Kwang and this is my first feature film called Collective Invention. Collective Invention is the story about a man who becomes a fishman due to the side effects of the clinical trial.
Collection Invention is your first feature film, what was the inspiration for it?
I like to look at illustrations. At the school library I was looking at the painting called Collective Invention by René Magritte. And there’s a person who’s half fish in the upper body and half human. So regardless of the intention of the painter, I thought the painting was sad but it was funny at the same time. I wanted to make a film like that so that’s how I started writing the script.
Were there any challenges or difficulties you faced in filming it, especially as the one character, Gu, is covered by a mask most of the time?
There was always difficulties. All the technical side didn’t always work out very well. So I’m very grateful to actor Lee Kwang Soo because I think a lot of the things that didn’t work out, he covered with his acting a lot. Usually the scenes with the fishman took twice as long as the normal scenes.
When I watched the film, I was struck by how negatively the media and the pharmaceutical company were portrayed. Was the satire meant to be a social commentary and can you expand of that?
So this film doesn’t really go deep or in depth into all the problems with the media or companies or all those, but I actually wanted all those problems to just touch base on the surface and talk about those. I thought the various problems were all related. Without going too much in depth, I wanted the audience to think about how to think about all these various problems that are all related to each other.
That actually leads me into my next question, were there any takeaways you wanted the audience to have from Collective Invention?
Instead of covering one topic, I wanted people to just think about the various problems and how should we deal with it and where should we go from here. Just think about all the various problems. So not giving them an answer but just give them a question – why did this happen?
Collective Invention is having its world premiere at TIFF so this may be a difficult question but do you think Western audiences will react differently than Korean audiences to it?
I’m very curious about that. I’m just very curious. [laughter]
When Gu ultimately choose to live as a fish rather than a man, what did you want the audience to draw from it?
I think it’s him choosing an adventure. In Korean society, including me, the current generation, they’re going through the same path that everyone, that’s decided by society. That’s why the many issues in Korea aren’t getting changed. So it’s a story about my generation. I thought that choosing a different path, it’s not the end of the world and you could choose a different path. I hope it’ll be shown as not running away from your life but it is a different world that you’re going into and you’re trying for a different thing.
Which filmmakers, Korean or non-Korean, have influenced you?
There are way too many. I actually studied film at school. John Wayne, Billy Wilder, there are just way too many that inspired me. I wish that later in my film career I will be able to talk about the director that I much admire and respect, the director Lee Chang Dong.
Finally, are you working on anything new at the moment?
I’m always thinking about a movie but nothing’s decided yet. If Collective Invention was unique and very different film, then I want my next film to be easy for the public to understand.
Thank you very much.
Thanks to director Kwon Oh Kwang for taking the time to chat with us before the world premiere of Collective Invention at TIFF, to CJ Entertainment for organizing the interview and to the translator, Kaila.