“Cyberbullying perpetrators have a bigger ripple effect”
In the debut feature of the South Korean Han In-mi, Nobody’s Lover, its 18-year-old protagonist leads a hard life in many ways. Nothing seems easy, including family circumstances, high school relationships, and making friends. The young woman is like a desert island, far from the world. The trigger for this initiatory film will be love. Unexpectedly, her loneliness becomes a triangle. In the background, precarious work, bullying and the feeling of orphanage.
– There are many films lately starring teenagers who have to deal with their lives due to their absent parents. What does it say about our contemporary societies?
It has been steadily used as the background of the main character for a very long time. In South Korea, the responsibility of taking care of the child rests solely on the parents (especially on the mother), and in the absence of the parents, the child is placed in a vulnerable environment where they are not protected. These characters in such anxious and deprived situations seem to be the point of interest.
– Do you like the coming of age genre? If so, which are the films and books that have inspired you?
If it’s a story about growth, I really do like it. I’ve found inspiration from To Kill a Mockingbird by de Harper Lee. Films are Mouchette (Robert Bresson, 1967), An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, 1990), Yi Yi: A One and A Two (Edward Yang, 2000), Vagabond ley (Agnès Varda, 1985) and Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat, 2001).
– Part-time jobs were also part of your short Blossom, what do you want to underline with the need for young people to work instead of focusing on getting prepared for the future through their studies?
It is an interesting perspective. Teenagers also need money and want to do many things, but if their desires are not related to their studies these are not respected nor protected. I wanted to talk about such issues, not necessarily emphasize that they should work.
– Why did you decide not to film any sequence in high school class?
What Yujin would be going through at school were mostly scenes about bullying and loneliness so filming a class scene felt like a cliché. Instead, wandering around outside the school seemed to portray enough her being distanced from the school and friends.
– Your film shows the use of phones among adolescents to entail bullying, do you think of it as a negative tool?
Yes. In the film, there are only scenes of them taking the pictures. However, the audience must have thought about the social issues such as messengers, social media, and online anonymous bulletin boards that are used for school violence and bullying. As non-face-to-face communication becomes more active, unverified rumors are easily spread eventually becoming the truth. I think the perpetrators’ have a far greater ripple effect than before, as it spreads quickly and widely without any effort.
– Both Blossom and Nobody’s Lover capture a breakdown moment of childhood and teens’ innocence. Do you think of growing old as a traumatic passage?
Yes. It’s always new and shocking. Not only when one is young but also as an adult, I constantly get shocked to realize and learn new things. I think it is because we all have both fear and curiosity. The process of talking, sharing, and empathizing with those moments is a way to understand and adapt to this world.
– Why do you like your film to put an emphasis on social class as a major theme?
My life as a commoner has led me to set ordinary people as the main character. I’ve never realized I’ve been emphasizing it, but starting from what I know, it empathizes with me to write about poverty rather than abundance.
– 18-year-old Yujin left alone, opens her eyes to love. Without a single clue of the other side of love. What’s in your opinion the other side of love?
“The other side of the fantasy of love” would be more accurate. This is what we discover once we realize that it is an illusion to wish the other person will accept me completely as I am and I will be able to accept them as they are. This may be a wall unable to overcome, or it could be loneliness.
– Are you somehow thankful to Parasites for the expectations the film has raised towards Korean cinema?
Yes. In the past, when I thought of films from other countries and consider them good (Japanese, Mexican, German, Spanish, etc.) I only had two-three references. It was a judgment based on those two-three films, but this judgment led me to build trust in the culture of the country and intrigued me to watch films from that country later on. I believe that Parasite would have caused a similar chain reaction to audiences around the world, creating expectations for Korean films and trusting our culture. It is the young Korean film directors who benefit from this privilege. I am more than thankful.