Im Sang-soo hopes to stoke the fire of rebellion

By Won Ho-jung

Acclaimed director returns with a lighthearted comedy with a heavy message about true meaning of youth

  • Published : Jul 6, 2015 - 17:09
  • Updated : Jul 6, 2015 - 17:09

Throughout his interview with The Korea Herald at a cafe in Jongno-gu, Seoul, 53-year-old director Im Sang-soo had a wary smile on his face. His personal ambience was in many ways what one would expect after watching his most well-known movies such as “The Housemaid” or “The Taste of Money” -- caustic, satirical depictions of society‘s ultra-elite. 

Filmmaker Im Sang-soo (Yonhap)

So it was surprising that he was able to shed his brand of biting wit in his latest crime thriller comedy “Intimate Enemies,” starring Go Joon-hee and Ryoo Seung-bum. According to Im, the intent was to reach a different audience than those who followed his previous work.

Poster for "Intimate Enemies"

“Satire and black comedy were very critical of society and had me looking down my nose, to use an expression,” he said. “I was aware that it wasn’t reaching younger audiences. So this time, I made it a bit lighter and upbeat to connect with those younger moviegoers.”

“The film depicts the despair that young people feel today, just as ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ portrayed the despair of (the Depression) era,” he explained.

“Intimate Enemies” follows a young couple -- an orphaned woman who drives a tow truck and a man who is unable to find a steady job despite having graduated from a good university -- as they steal money from a villainous mogul and try to evade getting caught by his henchmen. The couple is charismatic and carefree, refusing to bind themselves to social notions of good character.

To Im they are good people at heart who have been driven to the brink, taught that morality and survival in today’s harsh society are mutually exclusive.

“I think it is offensive to try to force high ethical and moral standards on today’s youth, who seem to have no hope,” Im said. “To me, youth is about rebelling, asking questions, demanding answers and being insubordinate. I think that our society needs to raise our children to experience that true kind of youth,” he continued, saying that doing so would make them more mature and aware members of society.

“Today’s Korea forces children to be obedient and fit themselves into the system from such an early age, without question, and that’s why today’s youth is where they are today,” Im said. “I don’t want to criticize young people. I want to challenge the way we raise our children.”

As for those young moviegoers he hoped to reach with the movie, Im said that he wanted to spark the fire of rebellion inside. “It’s not about catharsis,” he said, although at the end of the film the main characters get to exact a bloodstained revenge on the rich and powerful. “It’s about feeling rage and defiance against the older generation who have created this frustrating situation, who benefit from exploiting our youth.”

By Won Ho-jung (hjwon@heraldcorp.com)