Veteran actor Choi Min-sik poses after a press conference held at Lotte Cinema Konkuk University on Tuesday. (Showbox)
Choi Min-sik is returning to the big screen as a genius mathematician from North Korea in “In Our Prime,” which has been promoted as the Korean version of Gus Van Sant’s American classic “Good Will Hunting.”
“Our film can’t be compared with ‘Good Will Hunting’ and Robin Williams,” Choi said humbly during a press conference held after a press preview at Lotte Cinema Konkuk University on Tuesday. “I remember how moving that movie was and it made me think of the true meaning of education and also communication between different generations. These are also factors that are in our film. So I guess there are some similarities.”
In “In Our Prime,” directed by Park Dong-hoon, Choi plays Lee Hak-sung, who works as a school security guard but is actually a mathematical genius who defected from North Korea. Hak-sung meets Ji-woo (Kim Dong-hwi), a student having a hard time fitting in at school due to his social background and poor math scores.
After finding out about Hak-sung’s talent in math, Ji-woo asks Hak-sung to teach him. Although reluctant at first, Hak-sung eventually agrees to help Ji-woo and the two become close through the lessons. One day, Ji-woo is framed for an incident in school. At the same time, Hak-sung is at risk of having his past secrets revealed.
“In the movie, my character is introduced with two keywords: genius and North Korean defector. But when I was filming, I tried not to focus too much on those,” Choi said. “I did use a North Korean accent but that was it. I focused more on playing a heartbroken scholar who is unable to freely study what he loves so much, and also how he interacts with a heartbroken student. I mainly focused on this interaction.”
During the press conference, director Park said the fairytale-like space where Hak-sung and Ji-woo study together was specially created to contrast with the classroom.
“The space is where Ji-woo opens up to Lee Hak-sung and heals his heart. It is also the place where Boram (Ji-woo’s friend) realizes her love for the piano. So I tried to make the place look different from the classroom,” the director said. “It is the place where small miracles take place.”
Veteran actor Choi also talked about how he learned to speak with a North Korean accent so naturally.
“I learned the North Korean accent from a North Korean defector. I think language is a habit so you can’t really study it like you are preparing for an exam. I spent a lot of time with the teacher, had drinks with him. In the end, I could sort of imitate his way of talking,” Choi said.
“In Our Prime,” directed by Park Dong-hoon (Showbox)
Although the veteran actor’s seasoned performance shines, the plot may seem plain with its straightforward good and evil characters.
While the director does not hide his intention of creating a movie that is not provocative and provides comfort to the audience, it may make viewers cringe.
“Not only high school students, but people in general are constantly put into situations where they have to compete against each other. And there are many times in our lives when we just want to give up, thinking our lives would be better off that way,” the director said. “I want to tell those people that it is OK to take a break to look around. I created this movie because I want to deliver this message.”
“In Our Prime” hits local theaters on March 9.
By Song Seung-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org