BY Adrienne Stanley | Nov 08, 2015 08:14 AM EST
On November 6, Subway Cinema and The Korea Society ushed in the Opening Night at the Museum of the Moving Picture in Astoria.
Actress Go Ah Sung (Heard it from the Grapevine, Snowpiercer) and director Hong Won Chan (The Chaser) were present for the Opening Night screening of the psychological thriller, "Office," which kicked off the 13th New York Korean Film Festival.
"Office" is a chilling film, set within the sterile halls of a Korean office building, populated by ruthless salarymen and women who are struggling to maintain their place within the heirarchy.
Bae Seong Woo is Manager Kim, a hapless member of middle management who entertains dreams of advancement. When he is fired, he goes home and slaughters his entire family, before returning to the workplace.
Go Ah Sung is Lee Mi Rae, a country bumpkin intern, who wants to assimilate into the fast-paced life of Seoul office work. When news of Manager Kim reaches Mi Rae, it sets her onto a course where she is plagued by thoughts of extracting revenge against the full-time employees that make her life miserable and contributed to the downfall of Manager Kim.
"Office" marks the directorial debut of Hong Won Chan, whose previous work is based extensively in adaptations of real-life crimes.
The screening was followed by a conversation with the talented actress and the director. Samuel Jamier, the executive director of Subway Cinema, served as the moderator the question and answer session.
“When I first received the screenplay, I was worried after first, because I knew that it wouldn’t be an easy role and that it would be taxing,” said Go. “As an actor, I felt like it would be great to play such a three-dimensional character. After seeing that, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes.”
Go was then questioned about her motivation for the role and whether she visited local Korean offices to learn more about workplace culture. Jamier referenced a common practice in Hollywood filmmaking where method actors find build their characters on the basis of real-life events or people.
“I was actually really lucky,” said Go. “Around the time I started working on this project, all my friends from college were interning at some place or another. So, as an actor, it was great to have my friend’s points about the characters. I would go to their offices and make copies or do whatever interns do.”
She mused on whether her ability to briefly work within an office actually served as a basis for her portrayal of Mi Rye.
“But I don’t know if that’s what actually helped me figure out how to the find the character because, it wasn’t really much about the appearance or the outside factors of what she did,” said Go. “I think it was more about delving through sense of inferiority and her sense of low self esteem. So I think the focus on that was more helpful.”
Director Hong was asked about the origin of the name Mi Rae, which means future in Korean.
“There it was a bit of an intentional thing [in the naming of Mi Rae],” said Go. “The producer, who also wrote the original screenplay, told me that she named the intern Mi Rae with that intention in mind. I did think that the name had more significance, afterwards.”
Hong previously worked on adaptations of true crimes with credits including, “The Chaser.” Jamier asked Hong what aspects of crime interested him and why he made his directorial debut through a film like, “Office,” which many consider to be more of a horror movie than thriller.
“I’ve always been a fan of the crime genre, whether it is when I read novels or watch films, that’s the genre that I tend to lean towards,” said Hong. “I think crime is always an attractive subject when it comes to film because you are really able to investigate human nature and what goes on, psychologically, behind a person’s mind. Particularly, how someone would imagine a crime. I think that has been something important throughout my creative process.”
Few Korean movies feature a powerful female protagonist. “Office” is a set within the male dominated realm of a sales team, whose self worth is determined by their ability to meet unrealistic goals. Go weighed in on portraying a woman who is seemingly powerless, but who develops her own method of control.
“I’ve never really thought about the discrepancy between female driven or male driven films, in Korea,” said Go. “But while I was making ‘Office,’ I realized that it is hard for an actress like me to be in a leading role. So, that’s when I really felt that. When it comes to filmmaking, I felt that it’s important not to make that distinction between how female or male driven films have been released. I feel like not making that distinction is sometimes more important, if you actually want to see a change with this.”
The Opening Night ceremony concluded with questions from the audience, followed by a reception, where Director Hong and Go interacted with attendees.
The 13th New York Korean Film Festival will continue through Tuesday, November 11, 2015. Screenings are held at the Museum of the Moving Picture in Astoria, Queens.
In addition to the screenings, the guests of the festival, including Go Ah Sung and director Ryoo Seung Wan, will be present for Korean Filmmakers Night on Monday, November 9 at 6 p.m. at the Korea Society.
Ticketing information and showtimes for the 13th New York Korean Film Festival can be found through the official website of the event.
Adrienne Stanley is a contributing editor at KDramaStars. She is also a contributing music writer at KpopStarz, MTV Iggy and other publications. When she is not listening to "Rhythm Ta," she can be found on Twitter. (@retrogirladdy).
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