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Hong Sang-soo wins Silver Bear for Best Director in Berlin

Hong Sang-soo wins Silver Bear for Best Director in Berlin

Posted March. 03, 2020 07:54,   

Updated March. 03, 2020 07:54


“A director who lays bare our mundane desires,” critics say about Hong Sang-soo, the South Korean director who won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival. Hong’s works have taken a glimpse into the inner desire and hypocrisy of human mind through the daily encounters and conversations between man and woman. From his debut with “The Day a Pig Fell into the Well” to his 24th movie “The Woman Who Ran,” the South Korean film director has perfected his own color by offering detailed descriptions of psychology based on his autobiographic stories.

Mundanity is the hallmark of Hong’s movies. A man and a woman meet at work or on a trip, and they eat, walk, drink together, and these small episodes are used to describe the nuanced emotions of characters. The “drunken rambling” between the man and the woman is Hong’s signature that never fails to appear in any of his movies. The topic of their conversations is trivial, but what they really want to talk about is always missing, thereby revealing the limit of communication where the real intention is often drowned out.

Hong’s cinematic universe went through a turning point when Kim Min-hee, a famous Korean actress and Hong’s partner, established herself as his persona. In his previous works, Hong focused on the internal conflicts the man goes through over the female character that often remains secretive about her feelings, revealing the man’s pitifulness with a hint of self-ridicule. “In Hong’s movies, women used to be the object of men’s microscopic desire, but from “Ok-hee’s Movie” in 2010, we can see that the director is seeking to take a look at women’s desire,” says Ahn Soong-bum, a movie critic.

Hong’s penchant for “mundanity” is seen in his camerawork as well. He prefers plain techniques such as a full shot or a zoom in. “Hong often uses a ‘long take’ where he shows the same scene without interrupting, and sometimes, the camera will stay for seconds even after the subject disappears” explained the movie critic. “He captures the time and the space as is without any technique. This allows the audience to purely focus on the lines, the actions, the brazen desires hidden between the lines.”

Jae-Hee Kim jetti@donga.com