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[Herald Interview] Director of animated horror film ‘Climbing’ hopes to share plight of pregnant women

Director Kim Hye-mi (Ours)
Director Kim Hye-mi (Ours)

Not all expectant mothers experience a “pregnancy glow,” says director Kim Hye-mi, who hopes to highlight the tumultuous journey some pregnant women go through in her animated horror film “Climbing.”

“I wanted to show that pregnancy not only has bright sides to it but a dark side to it as well. And I wanted to show is that we don’t have to always view it only positively,” Kim said during a recent interview with The Korea Herald. “I wanted to focus on the internal changes that pregnant women go through.”

“Climbing” introduces Choi Se-hyeon, a professional climber who has lost her baby due to an accident. As she is preparing for the Climbing World Championship, she receives a mysterious call on her old mobile phone that had been damaged during the accident. She ends up connecting to herself in a parallel universe, where she is still pregnant. After the call, Se-hyeon starts to notice some strange physical changes.

It was the “negative and obsessive” emotions Kim felt during her own pregnancy that inspired the director to create the story.

“When I was pregnant I had a dream in which I was not aware that I was pregnant and was hanging out with my friends, drinking. Then all of a sudden I realized that I was pregnant and was not supposed to drink,” she said.

After waking up from that dream, the director said she felt a bit guilty because it seemed to show that she was not fully ready to be a mother.

“When I became pregnant, I could not immediately switch on a motherhood mode and change myself. I went through a time of anguish and anxiety. I wanted to show that in the movie,” the director said.

During the interview, she also addressed some of the criticisms about the animation that were raised online after it was screened at film festivals. The posts say that the film portrays pregnancy too negatively.

“I think there can be different opinions,“ she said. ”I am not trying to say ‘let’s not have babies’ through my film. I just wanted to share my experience.“

Kim felt that her experience eventually helped her become a stronger mother, after she admitted to herself that there were not only always positive sides to pregnancy. 

A scene from Korean animated horror film “Climbing” (KAFA)
A scene from Korean animated horror film “Climbing” (KAFA)

She was also honored that the film was invited to the Contrechamp competition at the 2021 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, which began on Monday and will run until Saturday.

Created in 1960, the animated film fest is considered one of the big four international animated film festivals along with the Ottawa International Animated Film Festival in Canada, the Hiroshima International Animation Festival in Japan, and the Zagreb World Festival of Animated Films in Croatia.

“I thought that maybe the obsession that mothers can have over babies was something that only Koreans could relate to. When I heard that it was invited to be screened at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, I was glad because it meant the festival organizers were interested in a story on emotions of a pregnant woman,” she said.

Kim also discussed how she created the dark, haunting mood of the animated film.

”The tone of the movie was inspired by HBO’s ‘Fantasmagorias’ series. I liked the tone in the series so I used it as my reference,“ she said.

Since “Climbing” is a limited-budget indie film produced by the Korean Academy of Film Arts, Kim said she also had to make strategic choices when it came to artistic style.

“I intentionally avoided making it look similar to Disney or Pixar characters. Because if it is similar (to them) the audiences would expect the quality of my film to also be high like them.”

“Climbing” will hit local theaters on Wednesday.

By Song Seung-hyun (