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'Apartment With Two Women’ director on Korean, foreign audiences' reactions

“The Apartment With Two Women” (Challan)
“The Apartment With Two Women” (Challan)

Kim Se-in, director of the film “The Apartment With Two Women” which has screened at local and overseas film festivals, talked about the difference in reactions between Korean and foreign audiences during a press conference held at Lotte Cinema Konkuk University on Tuesday.

Kim’s debut feature, which was created for a feature film production program organized by the Korean Academy of Film Arts, was screened as part of the 2022 Berlin International Film Festival’s Panorama program. The film also won five awards, including the New Currents award and the best actress award at the 26th Busan International Film Festival last year.

“What I thought was interesting is that the foreign audiences considered my film to have a black comedy element. So from the first scene, I could see them laughing. This made me think of the saying ‘Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long shot,'” Kim said.

The first scene that Kim referred to is of Yi-jung handwashing panties while Soo-kyung is on the phone next to her. Soo-kyung then picks up one of the wet underwear that was being washed and casually wears them and leaves.

Kim explained that although it is hard to generalize, Korean audiences, for the most part, did not laugh and took the scene seriously as the mother-daughter dynamic is revealed for the first time. In contrast, many foreign audiences who have different cultural experiences perceived it differently and laughed at the scene.

In Kim’s film, Soo-kyung lives with her daughter Yi-jung. They don’t get along with each other as they have very different personalities. Soo-kyung is hot-tempered while Yi-jung is more passive. One day, they get into a fight and Soo-kyung's car runs over her daughter Yi-jung. The daughter thinks her mom did it on purpose and their clash ends up in court.

The director also talked about the unique Korean title of the film, which directly translates as “Two Women Who Share Underwear.”

“To be honest, I used to share underwear with my mother until pretty recently. I asked my friends and a few girls said they have experienced sharing underwear with their mom. But I could not find such a case for men. So I thought it could be a perfect title to show a mother-daughter relationship,” the director said.

Some cast members of the film talked about their first impressions of the title.

“When I first saw the title, I thought the protagonists must be really poor, because underwear is a very personal item. I also guessed that they must be mom and daughter," Yang Mal-bok, who played Soo-kyung, said. “After reading the script I realized that it is talking about deep and close relationships.”

“I read the script and wondered 'how close could the two women be so that they can even share underwear?'” Im Jee-ho, who played Yi-jung, said.

“I really loved the script because I could picture all the scenes -- it was written so delicately. Also it not only has a story of mother and daughter, but also diverse human relationships. It really made me wonder who wrote this script,” Im added.

A separate photo session was not held before or after the press conference, as Korea observes a weeklong national mourning period following a tragic Halloween crowd surge that killed at least 156 people in Itaewon, central Seoul.

“The Apartment With Two Women” hits local theaters on Nov. 10.

By Song Seung-hyun (