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The man behind Always – An interview with Song Il Gon

Have you been looking for an extremelt good romantic movie with just the right amount of humor, heartache and unexpected twists? Well, look no further! Always is the must-see K-romance of 2011 with its touching script and well-built characters. The movie tells the story of a quiet former boxer and a blind woman, whose lives intertwine one rainy night in a parking lot.  Both find new perspective in life through each other, but things never go smoothly for long, so brace yourselves for a rollercoaster ride of emotions!

Korea.com got a chance to interview the man behind this beautiful movie, internationally acclaimed movie director Song Il Gon, the first Korean to win an award at the Cannes Film Festival. Surprisingly enough, he told me he was not always set on working in the movie business. “When I was in high school, I didn’t know what to do,” he explained, “but the student sitting behind me was talking one day about a film by Antonioni, Blow Up, and he influenced me a lot. I decided to go to university and study film, so I started to watch a lot of films and it was through studying that I fell in love with moviemaking.”

After attending Seoul Institute of the Arts, Song Il Gon decided to deepen his film-knowledge by enrolling at the National Academy of Film in Poland. “At the time in Korea we didn’t have such a good movie-making system in the schools, so I went there and spent four or five years making short films.”

Song Il Gon’s early works are quite difficult to box in a genre, so they tend to be considered arthouse or independent. I asked him whether he got interested in that kind of movies in Poland or if he was into them even before that. “When I was in Seoul, I was just interested in making films.” He states simply. “It’s difficult to define what an independent film is, you can say whatever you want in them, while in genre films there are specific rules to follow.”

The Seoul born movie director has changed a lot through the years and this is clearly reflected in his movies. “When I was only twenty, I really loved, for example, Tarkovsky and Kieslowski. I read a lot of Dostoyevsky. At the time I was young and obsessed about “truth” and what makes people as human, things like that, philosophical questions. That’s why I was very serious and enthusiastic about making deep films, but as time goes by I change. Now I’m 42, I’m more relaxed. I wanna talk with the people. I don’t want to think anymore, I want to start to talk and comunicate with the audience. I want to find balance now.

While Song Il Gon’s first works were heavily awarded and widely appreciated by critics from all over the world for their remarkable originality, his latest movie Always wasn’t as succesfull among the experts, although immensely well received by audiences. “I don’t want to make a film anymore for the critics or the festivals,” he said, “because now I want to talk with the people.”

This disappointment with critics can be traced back to the director’s documentary Dance of Time. “We had a press screening in Korea,” he explained,”but the press didn’t care, because they have to work for the commercial films. At that time I felt very bad about it, because this film was small, but very important, it was about a very sad chapter in Korean history. I’m not saying this film was good, but press and critics had to take care of this film and didn’t.”

Song Il Gon was, on the other hand, very pleasde with the Italian audience’s reaction at the screening of Always on the first night of the Florence Korea Film Fest on the 23rd of March. The Odeon Movie Theater tickets for that night sold out and at the end of the movie Song Il Gon received a round of applause and lots of praising. I asked him what his favorite shot in the movie was. ”I liked the shot at the beginning, when the woman came into the parking lot for the first time. They’re watching tv and suddenly the camera goes out and it’s like we see their backs in the box and then there’s the rain. I like this scene because it’s very warm, outside it’s rainy, while inside it is warm and they’re watching the tv together. I like the shot.”

It is indeed a visually delicious, heart-warming scene, but definitely not the only one and hopefully you’ll be able to experience the beauty of this touching movie for yourselves. Go watch it right away!