[INTERVIEW] Kim Seong-hun (TUNNEL)

In 2014, his second feature film a Hard Day was a film among other programming, 9e film Festival Korean in Paris. Two years later, Kim Seong-hun was the opening of the festival with Tunnel, a disaster film at once funny and tragic. A mix of genres, which makes the style of the filmmaker, himself full of humor as we meet him for the opportunity, but not without valuable insights on the Korean society and the world.

Our critique of Tunnel


In France, we you experienced with your second movie, Hard Day and you combine them necessarily now. What has been the impact of this movie for you in Korea and for the production of Tunnel ?

I think that in Korea, the reaction has been similar. Hard Day worked well and the public had come to see Tunnel through it (Tunneling was two times more successful than Hard Day with seven million viewers in Korea). In terms of production, it was faster to get investment. But in terms of pressure I haven’t had more.


In the Hard Day you had a critical look at the corrupt police. And it is something that is often found in the Korean cinema in different ways. How do you explain that ?

Why, in France you don’t have corrupt police officers ? (laugh)


May be, in any case, our cinema does not evoke as often…

I think the next director as a spectator we like to have films that reflect the reality of korea. Therefore it is a subject that comes back, but this only concerns a part of the society and police officers. But beyond that I think if we did that film with police officers rights and fair, it would be a bit boring. Because, let’s face it, when it is politically correct this is not very funny, no ?


With Tunnel the criticism is more about the policies and their ability to recover the tragedies. And you mention also that the financial stakes, which are stronger than the life of a man.

Yes I aim for the politicians. I think in the East as in the West, these people are the same. On these things it looks like a lot strangely… And for the economic issues I think it shouldn’t even become a dilemma when the life of a man is in the game. It’s sad, but it is our current society. Therefore, it is important to report these items.


Provided you stay in a kind of entertainment.

It is above all a style that I like. It is indeed very interesting to discuss important topics with serious. But sometimes it is better to seek to reach more people by being in the entertainment, while allowing them to think.


In fact, it is interesting to see the dominance of Korean cinema in your country, yet open to the american cinema and its blockbusters that dominate in the West. How do you explain that ?

I think it is very Korean want to find the reality in the movies. Suddenly, we’re not totally attracted to the hollywood movies that are in the fiction pure and which seem to come out of a dream factory. In Korea, the public wants to be able to project himself as a citizen, even in films with big show. He wants to see the problems that he knows will resolve and find a form of solace.

There are in your theater a willingness to mix genres with a lot of humour. A sense of humor very well controlled because, even if you laugh about the human character of the characters, it does not fall in the mockery. One is more annoyed by the “imperfect” of the characters, especially the lifeguards, or the press.

Quite. Tunnel is a tragedy of the Korean people. So it was important to add this touch of humor. Given that humour is present in our life at every moment, I wanted to put sparingly without falling in the registry of the comedy. And speaking of the press, there’s this scene where the journalists are sending drones into the tunnel to follow what is going on. The release of the film in Korea, and it’s funny because this scene would cause the journalists believed that I didn’t like them. For them, this was the reality, then obviously, this is only a movie.


Also, the mix of genres here, with spikes of horror. When Lee Jung-soo is alone in the tunnel and heard noises, your mise-en-scene seems to go toward the horror.

Yes, because with a film that lasts two hours, it is necessary to put a dose of suspense and thrill. It is for this reason that I have used this mechanism. I always try to keep the public in suspense and then release pressure to play with him.


The film’s story revolves around the collapse of a tunnel. How came this idea ?

In fact, I wanted to show above all the survival of a human being who is stuck alone in a tunnel. And on the other hand, all these people who should go and save this man, but are here to procrastinate and talk instead of acting. Following the release of my film, there has been a lot of articles to indicate that the tunnels are stable and that there is no risk. So I assure you, it is in fact a very bad film that does not reflect reality at all ! (laugh)


About your main character, here it appears extremely good. It was an important element for you ?

For me, this character represents a man lambda, he leads an average life. I wanted to make a representation of normal people who have morals and would react the same way. Necessarily it is faced with a dilemma when he discovers a survivor. He wondered if he will share the little water he has. But I think that the human remains right at the bottom of him.

Remarks collected by Pierre Siclier film Festival Korean in Paris 2016

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