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Shim Eun-kyung says ‘Blue Hour’ is fairytale for grownups

Scene from Japanese film “Blue Hour” (AUD)
Scene from Japanese film “Blue Hour” (AUD)

Shim Eun-kyung depicts the bittersweet pain felt in adulthood in the upcoming Japanese film “Blue Hour.”

“The film is like a fairy tale for adults. The growing pains we feel as an adult may be different (from that of children), and this film warmly embraces such experience,” Shim said in a live video press conference conducted following the film’s press premiere Monday.

Coming from rookie Japanese director Yuko Hakota, “Blue Hour” revolves around 30-year-old successful, yet fatigued, television commercial director Sunada and her friend Kiyoura. Shim takes up the role of Kiyoura, while Japan’s Kaho stars as Sunada.

“‘Blue hour’ refers to the slightest of the moments when the sky turns blue at the start and the end of the day. We all have this experience where we’ve had a nap that‘s gone too long or woke up too early in the morning and we momentarily feel confused about where we are,” Hakota said during the videoconference.

“Through Sunada’s life, I wanted to throw a question about what we would do and how we would decide to live when we are each faced with the blue hours of our lives,” the director explained.

A conference with local media and actor Shim Eun-kyung (left) and director Yuko Hakota of film “Blue Hour” takes place in Seoul on Monday. (AUD)
A conference with local media and actor Shim Eun-kyung (left) and director Yuko Hakota of film “Blue Hour” takes place in Seoul on Monday. (AUD)

According to Shim, her role in the film is a bright character like no other she had taken up before.

“Kiyoura is like one of those characters in a Disney animation. I’ve always had the urge to take up a role that would seem real yet fantastical, and Kiyoura seemed to fit in perfectly,” the 26-year-old actress said.

Contrary to Sunada, who seems to be exhausted and unstable, Kiyoura is a free-spirited being who radiates positive energy to everyone around her. Accompanied by Kiyoura, Sunada visits her rural hometown in search of relief from her strained Tokyo life, only to realize the answer is not there.

“The film consists mostly of the give-and-take between the two characters, and I wanted Kiyoura to be able to portray Sunada’s deficiencies in a funny way. As I was thinking about who may be apt for the role, I heard Shim was starting a career in Japan and thought, ‘I have to seize her,’” Hakota said.

According to Hakota, the Korean actor had both mature and childlike facets to her. While she thought seriously about Kiyoura’s role as an actor, as a person she was lively and humorous.

To show the contrast between the two characters, the director requested Shim ad-lib, which in turn made her feel more liberated as she acted, Shim said.

“It had been a long while since I could ad-lib without any hesitation like this. It made me feel free. But the key factor (in acting) remained with expressing Kiyoura sincerely. While she was depicted as a happy character throughout the script, I became sadder as the shooting proceeded. I felt blue and lonely, and I realized Kiyoura also sympathized with Sunada’s feelings,” Shim said. “Sincerity is the foremost important factor in portraying any character, and Kiyoura was no exception.”

Poster for “Blue Hour” (AUD)
Poster for “Blue Hour” (AUD)

In March, Shim and Kaho were both given the best actress award at the 34th Takasaki Film Festival for “Blue Hour.” This is the second award the Korean actress grabbed in Japan, following the best actress prize she took home from the 43rd Japan Academy Film Prize Awards for her role in last year’s “The Journalist.”

“The awards still don’t seem very real to me as I wasn’t anticipating them at all. I’m just so grateful. The prizes made me realize that I should work more humbly as an actor, not being satisfied with what I have but just working as I have always done so until now,” Shim said.

Hakato, who made her directorial debut with “Blue Hour,” also grabbed the best director award at the 22nd Shanghai International Film Festival’s Asian New Talent section with the film last year.

To the Korean viewers, the director said, “This title draws what may be a very mundane and possible story around us. I hope the viewers can catch the minor changes in emotions portrayed in the film. It may feel like our own story in many parts and I hope they can relate in those points.“

The film hits local theaters Wednesday.

By Choi Ji-won (