Yoo Ah In Cine21 Interview: “Being Jong Soo gave me a time off”

CINE21 conducted an interview and photoshoot with Yoo Ah In, Steven Yeun and Jun Jong Seo, on May 8th, prior to the première of “Burning”. Here’s the part of interview with Yoo Ah In.


“Burning” Yoo Ah In – A New Balance

If you decide to act intentionally, with a conscious purpose [if you’ve taken the time to think about how you want to act], you’ll get caught by the director (Lee Chang Dong) before you show up in front of the audience. We must do our utmost to get rid of those calculated expressions. – Yoo Ah In

All the actors reached the peak of their performance in the films directed by Lee Chang Dong. Sol Kyung Gu, Moon Sori, Jeon Do Yeon, and Song Kang Ho have made it. What about Yoo Ah In in “Burning”? Yoo Ah In who came into Lee Chang Dong’s “new unknown world” spent a great deal of effort to convey the “feeling” that he could not express in words.

Q: It must have not been easy to guess the shape of the completed movie just by the script alone.

Yoo Ah In: Indeed, because it’s a massive combination of symbols and meanings. What I feel after watching the movie is that it deals with the cutting-edge, most up-to-date and very avant-garde/progressive story. It has direct expression and also a lot of scrupulously metaphorical plots. It gives a strangely subtle, unbalanced feeling, and it’s a little playful. It’s a completely new way of interpreting a film, and from this point of view this movie is a pioneer.

Q: Did you read the script first or after reading Murakami Haruki’s original work “Barn Burning”?

Yoo Ah In: I read the script first. I don’t like to think much about the text. Finding out how a written story would be adapted to a movie is more important to me. I was so looking forward to the “unknown world” that director Lee mentioned to me back then. Just like my team of independent artists (STUDIO CONCRETE) who I’m managing now, we are also dealing with the concept of implementing the unknown world and consciousness. The moment when director Lee gave me the script and told me, ‘let’s fall into an unknown world together’, remains vivid in my memory.

Q: Had you always been anticipating to work with director Lee Chang Dong?

Yoo Ah In: There was a curiosity about what it would be like to be under director Lee Chang Dong’s rule and order, and also, I had a wish to live in a very different world. The result was really fun. It was different from the fun I had when I was filming the movies before. In the previous filming scene/location, there were many annoying moments when everything was well equipped. But this time, there was no discomfort, and all the elements that build a film were presented in an extremely rich manner. It was a wake-up call so much that I felt I must have been half dead before. Should I say that it’s an ultra-sensory experience? If I explain it by numbers– if I could only feel 5 at the usual time, this time I feel 7 or 8. That was also the thing director Lee requested. Feel it!

Q: I’m very interested in what you said that you felt the sense of freedom and the ultra-sensory feelings while working with a director who has his own obvious cinematic rules. [T/N: Lee Chang Dong is famous for his strict, eccentric way of directing, with his hard-to-satisfy personality. There were also rumors about Lee being exceptionally hard on his actors. So, Cine21 reporter was wondering how Yoo Ah In felt the freedom and got the ultra-sensory feelings while working under his allegedly super strict rules]

Yoo Ah In: He didn’t say, “let’s go all the way through my world”, instead, “let’s expand the world together beyond the boundaries that encapsulate this world”. Of course, he has a very clear cinematic style and belief. But, although he built a clear environment and a scheduled mise-en-scène [T/N: mise-en-scène is the arrangement of scenery and stage properties in a play, the setting or surroundings of an action or event], he didn’t say, “Am I not providing you everything as real as it gets?”, or “Am I not giving you a lot of time to feel?”. There were many times in a shooting environment when we looked like a fake foreign object, shamelessly competing who could act better. But, director Lee Chang Dong’s shooting scene brought about each of real moment thoroughly. He provided an environment so close to reality that allows us to enter and feel inside it. He just let us focus on the feeling.

[Note: in the VIP premiere, Yoo Ah In said “Burning looks like a reality. Real weather, real nature, real dawn, real sunset, real wind, real scenery, real flocking birds.” A film critic wrote an interesting point about “Burning” after preview, saying, “Burning perfectly embodies space with time details, that it’s perfectly in harmony with the nature. Thanks to director Lee Chang Dong’s directing style who always uses scenery and nature as the mise-en-scène, audience feel the scenes coming to live and super close to reality throughout the movie.” Read more.]

Q: Jong Soo is an ordinary 20 year-old man who works as a part-time delivery man. What was the important factor in expressing this character?

Yoo Ah In: Ordinariness. Once director Lee evaluated me, “Yoo Ah In is the most self-conscious actor I’ve ever met”. However, he himself required an extreme ordinariness/normality. Isn’t there too big contradiction between the evaluation and requirement? (laugh). Instead of defining and expressing the ordinariness, I acted in a way that eliminated the opposite of ordinariness, removed the room for misunderstanding, and acted as simple and plain as possible. It doesn’t mean that I wanted to express ordinariness obsessively, but I came up with the thought that my existence itself is an expression. Plain and pure as it is. I thought of Jongsu as it is, as the image of youth as it is.

[Note: later in the interview with Cine21 in Cannes, Yoo Ah In elaborated more by saying, “Jongsu does not express; yet he’s not an expressionless character, but a character that delivers through its existence, and it manifests ambiguity with minimum expressions, movements and gestures. Being Jongsu was a kind of time-out process for me. I used to have an obsession about what good acting was, and when I conveyed obvious emotions in the constructed shots, I felt that I had gone too far away for a moment, because when I did so repeatedly, the sense of guilt for authenticity disappeared and only the skill increased. Burning gave me a time to return to the first heart of acting, to think where I should come/begin from, to not judge prematurely, and to just put the purest form of acting, as myself, on the spot.”]

Q: What was it like working together with actor Steven Yeun who has little experience in Korean movies, and Jun Jong Seo a newcomer?

Yoo Ah In: Both of them are very pure. They respond naturally to the situations. It seems these new harmony, new feeling and new balance are important. New Balance! (laugh). Showing New Balance any time is always an important assignment [T/N: In December last year, Studio Concrete also held an exhibition called “New Balance”, so that Yoo Ah In has become very familiar with this phrase or topic]. In terms of characters, Jong Soo in this film is just a built-in. He’s a built-in character like the air of a movie. Therefore, the feelings presented by Haemi and Ben are very important.

Q: Now that you have finished shooting the “National Day of Bankruptcy” (Sovereign Default), what’s your next work?

Yoo Ah In: I have not decided the future plan yet. I hope to meet some interesting works. I hope that when the audience meets the actor Yoo Ah In [in a film or drama], they won’t feel that he appears too much and too obvious [he hopes they won’t grow tired of his frequent appearance and they won’t feel the typecast thanks to his dynamic/constantly changing image], and I hope they will have fun.


Translated by Admin M of Yoo Ah In International Fans Community

© Yoo Ah In International Fans Community
※ Any copying, republication or redistribution of YOO AH IN SIKSEEKLAND’s content is expressly prohibited without prior consent of YOO AH IN SIKSEEKLAND. Copyright infringement is subject to criminal and civil penalties.

Source: Cine21

3 Responses to “Yoo Ah In Cine21 Interview: “Being Jong Soo gave me a time off””
  1. Sophie says:

    Thank you for the translations, Sikseekers!

  2. Laura says:

    “Burning gave me a time to return to the first heart of acting, to think where I should come/begin from, to not judge prematurely, and to just put the purest form of acting, as myself, on the spot.” Love et!

  3. Mari says:

    “It doesn’t mean that I wanted to express ordinariness obsessively, but I came up with the thought that my existence itself is an expression.” I love how eloquent and deep his words are!

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