Lee Kwang-Hoon est un réalisateur déconcertant. Loin d’être un débutant, il porte un regard ironique et nonchâlant sur son travail, qu’il juge parfois avec le détachement de quelqu’un qui serait contraint à oeuvrer derrière la caméra. Mais en cherchant bien, il est possible de retrouver un enthousiasme maîtrisé, au moins par rapport au genre dans lequel The Legend of the Evil Lake s’inscrit !
Sancho : You’re a bit of an exception in the "Action Asia" selection : all the others are first time directors, whereas you directed several movies before The Legend of the Evil Lake, which weren’t action movies.
Lee Kwang-Hoon : Most of them were indeed comedies. I didn’t like action movies. I still don’t like them, actually, but as my main character is a General, we have got to have some battle scenes, right ? And when his girl is possessed, we had to make something different out of her, so we had to use some wireworks. So you see I didn’t have any choice [laughs]. I didn’t actually expect my movie to be an action movie. I keep thinking it’s more of a love story - with some action into it.
The Legend of the Evil Lake has some points in common with your previous film, Ghost in Love. I found the female character to be very similar to the ghost in that movie, being evil yes, but not that evil...
I think in Asia, when a woman commits suicide or becomes a ghost, her image is almost always negative. She wants to take revenge and does so in a scary way. There are no angels in our culture, so our ghosts are always scary. In Ghost in Love, the female character commits suicide because she was betrayed by her boyfriend, and then decides to avenge herself. In The Legend of the Evil Lake it’s different, because Jahunbie is not a ghost herself, but a woman possessed by a ghost.
Both movies approach many different genres : there’s some action, horror, even gore scenes.
I didn’t specifically intend to combine all these genres. While I was writing the script, I felt that this movie would be very difficult for me as a director, because there’s action in it, and also period costumes, wire action, work with many extras... I expected this to be very demanding for me. I didn’t intend it to be, but I was aware that it would be difficult.
What was your inspiration for writing this movie ?
The Legend of the Evil Lake was based on an original 1969 movie with a similar title. I never watched that movie though ; I just read the script and liked its very strong, dramatic storyline. You just know the hero is going to have to kill the woman he loves. So I was interested in the project but I didn’t actually intend to direct the movie, I just wanted to show it to my producer, tell him to make it, that it would be very good. Still, I like a lot of Chinese movies, like A Chinese Ghost Story - which is one of my favourites - and also the The Bride with White Hair. So in the end I thought, maybe I should make a movie of that kind myself.
You took inspiration from a movie that came out in the sixties - a time when there were many fantasy films in Korea. How do you explain the genre disappeared for so long ?
The TV came to our houses in the seventies. It’s the same story all over the world : nobody went to the theater anymore. Fantasy films and period dramas cost a lot of money, so they stopped making them. And in the end for thirty years, there were no period dramas in Korea. Even today, ninety percent of domestic films are comedies, which are cheap to make.
You directed comedies yourself...
My first movie [Doctor Bong, ndlr] was a comedy, and it happened to be number one at the Box-Office for the year 1995. I don’t know about other countries, but if you become a successful director with comedies in Korea, you stay with comedy. So I did a second one, and business was not that good and I decided to change direction. My next movie will be a drama, between a father and his son.
Since you don’t like action films and thought shooting Legend of the Evil Lake would be difficult, are you satisfied with the end result ?
I don’t know, really... I was never satisfied with my movies. After I finish them, when I see them I think "I should have done this and that". I always have regrets about my movies ; all I can say is I did my best under the circumstances.
There’s a powerful horror element in your film. There are some very scary scenes with the possessed Jehunbie, which almost seem out of The Exorcist. Was it hard for the actress [Kim Hyo-Jin] to play this part ?
Yes ! It’s her first movie, and she has prepared scenes for her next ten movies I guess [laughs] ! She was in the water, had to run and jump in the mountains, go flying around... She was really great, and put a lot of work into the part.
Was it hard working with special effects ? You already had a lot of special effects - perhaps even more - in Ghost in Love...
Quite, yes. And I’m not very satisfied with the digital effects in both films...
Did The Legend of the Evil Lake make good business at the Korean box-office ?
Not as much as we expected, but my producers told me it sells well on the foreign market so I have hope. In Korea even though the story is actually based on an old domestic movie, it’s very familiar to audiences. And some young people don’t like it because it’s like a Chinese movie. It’s hard to break people’s expectations, and we all have a very wrong image of this dynasty. So if you have a flying girl in a long dress, it’s probably just a Chinese movie, even if you tell a Korean tale.
Interview réalisée à Deauville le 13 mars 2004 par l’équipe de SdA en association avec Elan-Films.