When the film adaptation of the popular internet comic “Moss” was announced last year, anticipation for the production was high from legions of loyal fans.
However, that initial excitement soon turned into disappointment when word got out that Kang Woo-suk -- director of such straight forward, mainstream fare as the Public Enemy franchise -- and his Cinema Service production company was taking on the project.
In the eyes of film enthusiasts and critics, Kang has always been considered a commercially driven, hackneyed director who makes low-brow films that provoke the most basic of human emotions.
His films, while huge box office draws, are considered to exploit the pulse of the Korean public through nationalism and themes which pander toward the working class by vilifying the social elite through simplistic, one-dimensional portrayals.
They were essentially tagged as distinctly Korean films which would be impossible to export to foreign markets.
Since “Moss” was noted for the layered storytelling and the cosmopolitan approach with which its author handled the subtext of social commentary, many had doubted the Kang would be able to do it justice.
“There were plenty of fanatics of the original comics that wrote on internet message boards (asking) why it had to be me,” Kang told reporters Tuesday during the post-screening Q and A session in Seoul.
“Reading those disparaging remarks, I realized how revered and large a fan base the original had.” He added, “one-upping the original became our first priority.”
The cast of director Kang Woo-suk’s latest blockbuster “Moss” pose after the screening at the CGV Wangsimni in Seoul on Tuesday. (From left) Jung Jae-young, Park Hae-il, Yoo Seon, Yoo Hae-jin, Kim Sang-ho, Yoo Joon-sang and Kim Joon-bae. Yonhap News
“Before we began production, I told Yoon Tae-ho (author of the original) that if I couldn’t overcome his original then I would have made this film in vain. So throughout filming I was always concerned whether I was going to be made a pariah by fans if I didn’t do a good job.”
Anchored in a classic murder mystery, “Moss” tells the story of one man’s journey into the heart of darkness in a small town deep in the backwoods of the Korean countryside to uncover the truth behind his father’s death.
It’s a story full of twists and turns seemingly inspired by American southern gothic literature.
When the original series first began its run two years ago online, the 80-part graphic novel became an Internet sensation -- captivating readers with its labyrinthine “whodunnit” plot which was accentuated by the richly detailed illustrations of the decaying village that gave it an ambiance of dread that millions of avid readers praised.
This was hardly the type of material many might have expected from a director who notched his first big hit with buddy-cop schlock-fest “Two Cops.”
“My interest in directing this film didn’t come from my need to mature as a filmmaker,” Kang said.
“My reason was rather simple. I wanted to avoid making another film similar to ones I’ve made before in my career. I wanted to make a film with depth about human relationships.”
Actor Park Hae-il who plays the son investigating his father’s mysterious death echoed Kang’s sentiment saying everyone involved in the production were burdened with the weight of making a film that would do the original source material justice.
“Right at the outset I wanted to get rid of the pressure that was keeping me down and it was difficult trying to adjust during filming,” he said.
“The experience of trying to understand how director Kang wanted to interpret scenes from the original helped.”
Jung Jae-young, whose casting as the ominous village patriarch garnered just as much criticism from fans said, “My character from the original and the one in the film carry two completely different images.”
“The only person who got me through all of the backlash from the fans on my being given the role was (Kang Woo-suk) who simply told me I could do a good job and if I don’t then that’s that, and that made me want to give him the best that I could give him.”
The film opens July 15 nationwide and co-stars Yoo Hae-jin and Yoo Joon-sang.
By Song Woong-ki (email@example.com