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'A French Woman’: about a woman who belongs nowhere

Mix drama, fantasy and horror, the film sends timely message

“A French Woman” (Lotte Entertainment)
“A French Woman” (Lotte Entertainment)

Following a sequence of surreal scenes in the film “A French Woman” by director Kim Hee-jung, the viewers will be hit by an unexpectedly realistic message especially apt in this period of the pandemic.

“A French Woman” follows Mi-ra, a Korean with French citizenship, who visits her home country for the first time in a long time. Reunited with her old friends Young-eun and Sung-woo, Mi-ra travels back and forth in time, visiting moments in her past, especially those related to their late friend Hye-ran.

According to the director, the film stems from her own experiences living abroad, studying for seven years in Poland and living in France for about a year.

“I became interested in Koreans living abroad, especially women. They’re in a complicated state where it’s still not easy to live in a foreign land yet they’ve become too localized to come back to Korea. I felt various emotions in encountering them and I wanted to make a film about the feelings,” Kim said during the film’s press screening held in Seoul on Monday, where the lead cast Kim Ho-jeong, Kim Ji-young and Ryu A-bel were also present.

“A French Woman” (Lotte Entertainment)
“A French Woman” (Lotte Entertainment)

Kim Ho-jeong, a 30-year veteran of the stage and screen, takes up the role of Mi-ra. According to the director, she could not think of anyone other than Kim when she thought of “French woman.”

“There was only Ho-jeong (for this role). She’s experienced with theater so I knew she would be good in interpreting the script. And she’s just like a French woman, although she’d studied in Germany and not France,” director Kim said, adding even director Bong Joon-ho had thought the actress had lived in France for a long time.

Mi-ra had moved to Paris 20 years earlier to study acting and settled there, marrying a French man and working as an interpreter. In the summer of 2015, she visits Korea after divorcing her husband who had cheated on her with a younger Korean woman.

“Mi-ra doesn’t belong to any society and sits on the border. When I first received the script, I had just turned 50 and was thinking about how I should live and act in the future and I could fervently relate to the story,” the actress, now 52, said.

Unlike Mi-ra, both her friends have expanded their acting career, Young-eun -- played by actress Kim Ji-young -- as a filmmaker and Sung-woo -- played by actor Kim Young-min -- as a theater director. A rising actress Ryu A-bel takes up the role of the dead friend Hye-ran who keeps appearing before Mi-ra as she jumps in and out of dreams and travels to the past.

Actors Ryu A-bel (from left), Kim Ho-jeong and Kim Ji-young and director Kim Hee-jung pose for pictures at the film’s press conference held in Seoul on Monday. (Lotte Entertainment)
Actors Ryu A-bel (from left), Kim Ho-jeong and Kim Ji-young and director Kim Hee-jung pose for pictures at the film’s press conference held in Seoul on Monday. (Lotte Entertainment)

One of her most “exciting films,” as put by the director, the movie sends a timely message to everyone living in this exhausting period of continuing disasters, especially as the COVID-19 continues to cast a gloom over the world.

“Koreans living abroad are strongly moved by what happens in Korea. When disasters happen, they want to mourn together but they can’t. I wanted to talk about the irony of how those people could easily become the subject of mourning in this period of disasters,” the director said.

The film is set to open in cinemas on Thursday.

By Choi Ji-won (
Korea Herald Youtube