EXCLUSIVE Etrange 2013 Interview: Bong Joon-ho talks SNOWPIERCER

Contributor; Paris

We couldn't let Toronto have all the fun.

Sunday night, Bong Joon-ho's masterful Snowpiercer made its Paris premiere as part of L'Etrange Festival, and ScreenAnarchy had two contributors on hand to confirm that yeah, basically everything you've been hearing is true

The film is highly riveting, devilishly entertaining and dark as can be. It's also surprisingly funny in places, apeshit crazy in others, and the whole benefits from a visual palate much richer and more dynamic than what existing marketing materials would lead you to believe. To me, this was the best news of all.

Well, almost the best news of all. The next day, Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg and I got to interview him.

Before going further, a couple of notes:

First off, something you won't see in this piece: talk of the alleged twenty minutes lost. We didn't ask for a number of reasons, not the least of which it that it was the full length version that had played the festival the night before, and it was through this festival that said interview was taking place. Also, that same 125 minute cut will be the one released into French cinemas on October 30th. And finally, because Bong had addressed the issue himself not two days prior, saying, "it's not true. It's a rumor... for North America we are still negotiating with The Weinstein Company, we are discussing."

Secondly, something you see will in this piece: mild, mild talk of the film's themes, narrative structure and imagery. I've combed the interview over for anything that could possibly constitute a spoiler, but all the while, if you're hoping to go into the film anything close to unsullied, maybe best turn away here.

Shelagh Rowan-Legg contributed to this story.

ScreenAnarchy: This was your first large scale production outside of Korea, the first with a principally international cast and crew. Did that have any impact on your directing style, or on the way you worked with your actors?

Bong: It’s true that this budget was significantly higher than that of my other films, and that only ten percent of our crew were Korean. But ultimately, this production wasn’t all that different from my previous. The way that I work remains the same, the way the set is run is the same.

When I shot Shaking Tokyo [his segment in the anthology film Tokyo!] in Japan, [as a Korean] I was alone there too. All of the actors and crew were Japanese. Even when we made The Host, we had Australian and American effects specialists on set as part of our crew. So working in a multi-cultural, cosmopolitan environment was nothing new, and was something I was very comfortable with.

To be clear, while Snowpiercer is an English language film, it’s in no way a product of a Hollywood studio. It is a 100% Korean production. I was very lucky for that. I was able to make this film my way, as I had my previous films.

ScreenAnarchy: SNOWPIERCER is adapted from a French comic book series with a very stark and singular style. You famously plan out your films shot for shot in preproduction. Did the wealth of existing visual materials change your storyboarding process?

Bong: It goes without saying that [Transperceneige illustrator] Jean-Marc Rochette’s work is extraordinary. He’s a phenomenal illustrator, and it’s because of his work, his cover art especially, that I ever stumbled upon the series in a Seoul comic shop.

The storyboards for the film, however, are linked inextricably to the screenplay. The graphic novel is our original starting point and it remains a source of inspiration, but the visual construction of the film is entirely drawn from the script.

Still, images from the books are omnipresent throughout the film. I think notably of the scene in the aquarium car. We see it very briefly in a few panels of the second graphic novel, but in the film we stretched it out and made it the site of a very important scene. The biggest visual influence from the books is felt most in décor and costumes. The way people are dressed and the look of the back of the train, these are very much taken from the first volume.

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