New York Asian 2017 Interview: In A QUIET DREAM, Director Zhang Lu and Star Han Ye-ri Blur Reality

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New York Asian 2017 Interview: In A QUIET DREAM, Director Zhang Lu and Star Han Ye-ri Blur Reality
After 2014’s acclaimed, Gyeongju, director Zhang Lu returns to the New York Asian Film Festival with A Quiet Dream.  With a little help from his star, Han Ye-ri, Zhang spoke with me about blurring the lines between the subconscious and reality, celebrity cameos, and what makes the ideal man.
 
The Lady Miz Diva:  What was the idea behind casting directors for the three suitors? {Yang Ik-June, Yoon Jong-Bin, Park Jung-Bum}. I know they are all actors, as well, but did you were casting them because they were directors?
 
Zhang Lu:  I’m well aware that they are very good directors, but honestly, they are very good actors, as well, as you see in their own films.  So, I naturally wanted to see if I could work together with them.  Also, I wanted to see - because they are actors and directors - what sort of tricks they had up their sleeves.
 
LMD:  I recently interviewed a director who had a famous director act in his film and he loved the experience because he said that director knew what he was going for, and would sometimes even help him.  You had three times the blessing.  Did you consult with the directors during the filming? 
 
ZL:  It was a similar experience.  We definitely discussed a lot on set.  And because they already have good directing skills, they are always thinking one step ahead.  But sometimes, because they have too many thoughts about what they needed in a scene…
 
Han Ye-ri: That is when director would be like, “Okay, just stop thinking and do it.”  {Laughs} “Let’s just get this done.”
 
LMD: With GYEONGJU, you said you wanted to pursue "What didn't happen mixed in with what happened." Is this theme continued with A QUIET DREAM? I felt like there were RASHOMON-ish, or INCEPTION-ish elements.
 
ZL:  I wouldn’t say that sort of thing is my philosophy, but I would say that’s kind of my state of being.  It’s kind of the way I go about my life; ’Is this a dream, or is this reality?’  I kind of feel that is what I go through as a human being.  
 
So, thinking for myself why I made these films, Gyeongju, or A Quiet Dream, I was thinking about the general public’s tendency to separate the dream world from reality.  I feel that sometimes we have a tendency to have a hard border between them, but I feel, for me, dreams are very much a part of reality.  I was more curious about exploring the borders between those two worlds, and I’m also sort of examining our attitudes toward that sort of overlapping state, and also how that overlap may influence our lives.
 
LMD:  You have many cameos from artists you have worked with previously, or have connections to.  How did you judge how much of these stars’ appearance you would use in the film?  And as all of this may possibly not be tethered in strict reality, are those cameos meant to be seen as actual celebrities by the main characters in the film, or idealised versions of the people in their lives?
 
ZL:  About the cameo appearances, I’ve known these actors personally for a while, and I was just asking them for help.  So, that was kind of the context of how that came about.  To answer your question, when she {Ye-ri}’s dancing and Yoo Yeon-seok is in that scene; if this film is really about Ye-ri’s dream, I feel like she would have a male that is not the three characters in her reality.  
 
As you know, Yoo Yeon-seok is also a well-known actor, and a good actor, as well, and as a director, I felt like I hadn’t done much for Ye-ri as an actress, so I wanted to give her the opportunity to be with a very ideal male character.
 
LMD: How did you know what question I was going to ask next?  Yoo Yeon-seok is one of my favorite actors and gave me his very first overseas interview.  How did he come to be in the production, and how did you decide that he would essentially be the only dream or desire that Ye-ri has in the film?
 
HYr:  I just recently did a cameo appearance in another film of director Zhang’s.  My impression is a lot of actors want to be in director Zhang’s films, even if it’s a very short cameo appearance, I just feel like there are a lot of fans in the cinematic world.
 
Actually, I was just recently talking to director Bong Joon-oh, and he was asking me, “What’s the secret?  Why is he so popular among actors?”  So even director Bong was asking me what was director Zhang’s secret?  {Laughs} I feel like that attests to how popular he is with his actors.
 
ZL:  Because I’m mixing dreams with reality, maybe I will be able to send Yoo Yeon-seok into your dream. {Laughs
 
Regarding how Yoo Yeon-seok came to be in the film; I’d done Gyeongju with Park Hae-il, and he and Yoo Yeon-seok had done a film together {Whistleblower}.  I think that we were out for drinks at the Busan International film Festival, and we met and we chatted, and I had a good impression of him.  Also, I was in the process of thinking for myself what character would be most helpful for Ye-ri’s dream, and also his schedule happened to work out so we were able to have him on the set for that day.  
 
Also, in my private conversations with Ye-ri, I don’t know if she remembers, but I once asked her what her ideal sort of male dream was?  She answered to me, “A man who is healthy in mind and body.”  And that quote actually made into the film.  So, when you think about it, I kind of felt like Yoo Yeon-seok kind of fits the bill of the healthy body and mind, so it all just kind of came together.
 
LMD: The look of the film is very unique.  You place the film in this sort of rundown, industrial, uncinematic area of Seoul, but film it in such beautiful black and white with lush silver tones.  What was the vision that you had for the artistic look of the film?
 
ZL:  I haven’t really seen many films depicting neighborhoods in Seoul.  I do want to tell you that there are actually a lot of neighborhoods like the one in this film, but I feel like it’s a matter of whether the camera chooses to go to those neighborhoods or not.  
 
Why I chose to do this in black and white, that space is a space that I go to often, but when I come back home, when I think again about that space, I never really recollect it in color.  For me, that neighborhood always comes to me and black and white.  And one thing about filming I feel, is that you have to be truthful to the vibe that you’re getting from that space.  For me, the vibe was very black and white.  
 
So, for example, compared to the very fast-changing neighborhoods; you automatically associate those neighborhoods with color, because they’re so rapidly changing, but that neighborhood, it was pretty much the same every day, and I felt that that vibe was very well expressed in black and white. So, that was why I made that decision. 
 
This interview is cross-posted on my own site, The Diva Review. Please enjoy additional content, including exclusive photos there.
 
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A Quiet DreamHan Ye-riNYAFF 2017Yoo Yeon-seokZhang Lu