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[Herald Interview] Director Jang Cheol-soo defends provocative scenes in ‘Serve the People’

“Serve the People“ director Jang Cheol-soo (JNC Media Group)
“Serve the People“ director Jang Cheol-soo (JNC Media Group)
After the press screening of director Jang Cheol-soo’s new film “Serve the People” on Monday, a few local media outlets criticized his work, saying that it has too many unnecessary erotic scenes.

During his interview via Zoom with a group of local reporters on Tuesday, Jang addressed these criticisms.

“I did not intend to make it provocative. I value the emotion (of the characters),” Jang said. “When filming sex scenes, I focused on how I would portray the character’s passionate emotions.”

“If the film is viewed as too provocative, then it probably is my fault,” he added.

Based on a novel with the same title written by Chinese novelist Yan Lianke, Jang’s new film tells the story of Mu-gwang (Yeon Woo-jin), a soldier hungry for success. Mu-gwang gets to work at his commander’s house (Jo Sung-ha), where he encounters the commander’s wife, Soo-ryun (Ji An). When his commander is out of the house, Mu-gwang and Soo-ryun engage in a dangerous and forbidden love affair.

“The plot itself tells a strong and thrilling story. I think if I direct (sex scenes) passively, it does not fit the whole movie’s mood,” he said.

He further explained that he wanted to clearly show characters‘ craving for freedom. So when filming in the house, he chose not to hide any of the actors’ body parts, like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

“I tried to make sure that viewers of those scenes do not cringe and feel awkward. I wanted to make them feel free,” Jang added.

The director then showed gratitude toward his two leading actors, Yeon and Ji.

“Being naked in front of the camera itself is difficult for actors,” he said. “These actors worked on those scenes while using up all their energy. They could not even lift their fingers afterward.”

During his interview, Jang also talked about how he created a setting that is different from the original novel, which is set during China’s Cultural Revolution.

Jang’s movie is set in a fictional socialist country that is similar to North Korea in the 1970s.

“Serve the People,” directed by Jang Cheol-soo (JNC Media Group)
“Serve the People,” directed by Jang Cheol-soo (JNC Media Group)
“My Chinese is not very good, so I don’t think I can create a good movie in Chinese. I also thought of setting it in North Korea, but realized that it is not a good idea because it is a romance film,” Jang said.

He said that the actors would have had a hard time filming romantic scenes in North Korean accents.

Also, it did not feel right to use North Korean leaders’ photos in a romance movie, Jang added.

“Since it has to be set in a socialist country, there has to be a figure that they all idolize. I thought it would be difficult to work with that,” he said.

“Serve the People” will hit local theaters on Feb. 23.

By Song Seung-hyun (
Korea Herald Youtube