(Photo : Opus Pictures ) Director Lee Do Yoon explores the fragility and fickle morality of humanity in the 2014 crime film, "Confession." "Confession" stars Ji Sung (Kill Me, Heal Me) as Hyun Tae, a paramedic who is dedicated to raising his daughter with his hearing-impaired wife. Hyun Tae appears to have impeccable morals, which seemingly contrast with his childhood friends, In Chul and Min Soo. Joo Ji Hoon (Mask) portrays In Chul, a smooth-talking insurance salesman who crafts a plan to defraud his employer, at the financial gain of Hyun Tae"s parents. "Running Man" star Lee Kwang Soo is Min Soo, the most trusting friend within the trio, who joins the insurance fraud plan, but becomes heartbroken when the plot goes awry. KDramaStars sat down with director Lee Do Yoon to discuss his directorial debut and work as a screenwriter, during the 13th New York Korean Film Festival.
(Photo : Opus Pictures )
KDramaStars: I really enjoyed the mix of actors who comprised the central cast of Confession. How did Lee Kwang Soo, Ji Sung, and Joo Ji Hoon become involved in the movie? How did they develop the on-screen dynamic of life-long friends?
Lee Do Yoon: When you look at the actual age difference between the actors, there is a nine-year age gap. I was actually confronted by a lot of people who were opposed to the casting because they thought it wouldn"t work. But once the casting was completed, I called the actors up to have drinks. We would do a lot of things that friends would do.
We would sometimes go to Joo Ji Hoon"s place and pull all-nighters. Whether we were drinking or hanging around in our boxers or getting over our hangovers together, that kind of mingling helped the process. We wouldn"t go to fancy places, but would instead visit corner stores where they had soju. Spending a lot of time with the actors, in that way, helped them to develop a sense of being friends for a long time.
I kind of badgered the actors to spend a lot to spend time together. Ji Sung was a newlywed, [at the time]. I feel like he enjoyed the process because he was able to do things that he wasn"t able to do as a married guy.
KDramaStars: What were some of the challenges in writing the script for a film that also marked your directorial debut?
Lee Do Yoon:Becoming a director in Korea is a little bit dysfunctional, in that you just don"t become a director because your abilities to direct are good. Sometimes your biggest card can be a really good, original screenplay. Having a great original screenplay says a lot about who you are as a storyteller. For me, that process wasn"t as grueling because in my younger years, when I was growing up, I wanted to be novelist.
I"m very fond of creating stories. I think the advantage of having my original screenplay and having it as a director, was that I was able to achieve flexibility on-set. For example, if there were some things that were not working out, I could fix them on the fly. If there were some problems with a character, I could create another one and treat things immediately.
Flexibility was a big thing for me when I was working on this. Because I started with dreams of becoming a novelist, the system is actually beneficial to me. In the end, I am able to tell the story that I actually wanted to tell, rather than someone else"s story.
KDramaStars: Confession is unique in that it pairs the aspects of a coming of age film with a crime noir. Did real-life events inspire the script?
Lee Do Yoon:I wouldn"t say that the film is inspired by a real-life event. It comes from my musings on human relationships. As I live my life, I realize that there is more than one side to relationships. Not every interaction is all great or all bad. It"s a very complicated thing. Sometimes in relationships, you realize that your good intentions sometimes don"t lead to the good results that you intended.
I felt that it would be interesting to tell the story of three friends who really, really trusted one another. But their intentions don"t necessarily lead to good results, but to a catastrophic outcome. I would say this film was inspired by my own life experiences.
KDramaStars: The film opens and concludes with a snowy graduation day trip that leads to the injury of Min Soo. What influenced your decision to use this particular setting as the place that would define their relationships?
Lee Do Yoon: The film begins and ends with the scene from 17 years ago, on graduation day. The reason why I composed those scenes, in that manner, is because I feel like their fates were already sealed, at that point. Hyun Tae doubts In Chul for not coming for Min Soo, but Min Soo remains his friend, without reserve. Hyun Tae has doubts that present themselves again, 17 years later, in the same manner.
I feel like sometimes in life, there are certain moments that define a relationship or your entire life. These things come to the foreground when you are placed in dire or extreme circumstances. In this sense, they are making the same choices they made 17 years ago. In the end, they are confronted with a excruciating circumstances. I wanted to show that they were only human and made the same decisions they made, in the past. That"s why I placed the scenes in that manner.
KDramaStars: Hyun Tae is initially portrayed as the upright character, while In Chul seems morally bankrupt. Are the characters meant to serve as social commentary on filial and social obligations? What are your thoughts on the moral ambiguity of the film?
Lee Do Yoon The way I view human nature is that I don"t see it as a dichotomy of good and evil. I think it"s more about whether you"re weaker or stronger. I think it really comes down to the choices you make and the results coming from your choices. One thing I feel is that people don"t actually take the time to think about their choices or the consequences those choices will create.
When you think about the characters of Hyun Tae and In Chul, Hyun Tae may look like a morally just person, from an outsider"s point of view, but when you think about it he"s the one who makes the most tragic choice. In the case of In Chul, he"s not as squeaky clean, but he still entrusts his friends and he is a person who his friend"s really trust. When you look at that, no one is completely good or completely evil. We all have polarity in our natures. That is what"s interesting for me to try to tell that story, through the characters of the film.
The characters are in their thirties, they are my age. When I see my friends, the outward appearance of what they want you to see is often different than what they are really thinking or feeling. I"ve noticed that a lot. When it comes to social commentary, people in Korean society, are very lax with their moral standards. In the film, they think the only people who will be a victim will be the insurance company. Their mindset is, We can get this money and it will be all good. You and I are profiting from this.
I think this is a dangerous outlook because you"re not thinking about the consequences your actions will have on society. In some instances, it"s very unfortunate that a lot people in their twenties and thirties in Korean society, live with that kind of lax moral compass. Again, people don"t really take the time to contemplate the consequences of their choices. In that aspect, the film could act as a social commentary.
KDramaStars: What is your next project? Would you like to continue screenwriting and directing, in the future?
Lee Do Yoon: I"m interested in both options: directing my original screenplay and directing something that I have not written. Before coming to New York, I confirmed that I would be working on another one of my screenplays with Opus Pictures, which is the production company I am working with. We are in the casting process for that film. In the meantime, I feel like there are so many more stories that I want to tell. I would like to continue writing original screenplays, but I understand that there are a lot of great stories out there. If I am inspired to direct material I didn"t write, I would approach those projects. We"ll have to see what happens.