Earlier this week I had the honor and privilege of covering the Radius-TWC premiere of Bong Joon-ho‘s fantastic new Sci-Fi film Snowpiercer at the MOMA. If you haven’t seen or heard of the film, now you cross off part one of that statement and should plan to soon, like this weekend. It’s a film that our very own Chris McKittrick gave a 10/10, an extremely rare rating on our site. While on the red carpet I had an opportunity to speak with the visionary director of the film, Bong Joon-ho, the man behind genre greats like The Host and Mother, and he offered up some great bits about what inspired him, the one train car that he left out of the film, using real fire, and his upcoming projects.
If you’re a fan of his films I definitely would recommend reading what he has to say, he’s a brilliant filmmaker and one whose films are worth checking out if you haven’t already.
Movie Buzzers: What was it about the graphic novel that captured your attention and made you want to make this film?
Bong Joon-ho: The train, it’s about this train and everything being in this train. I think the train is very unique and cinematic in a small fixed space. It’s alive, it’s moving. It’s a very rare chance as a filmmaker to shoot a whole movie inside a train so it’s really fascinating and, the second thing is the humans inside the train. The human survivors remain in the train but they are survivors yet they fight against each other, it’s quite dark, but that shows the true nature of man in a way.
MB: Were there any ideas for train cars, because there were a lot of different types of train cars, that didn’t make it into the film that you wanted to include?
Bong: In the writing process I was very meticulous about determining what to shoot and what to leave out, it was very precisely decided in advance, so there’s nothing that was in the script that I didn’t shoot or that I shot that I cut out, but there was one thing that I imagined while I was writing that I actually never included. I imagined a zoo section with large animals cramped in that tight space, giraffes who can’t straighten their necks so they have to lean forward to fit inside, but budgetarily I had to cut that out. So instead you see an abattoir section with the meat hanging off the hooks.
MB: That’s a great alternative. What was the most challenging scene to shoot? Was it the choreography in the night vision scene?
Bong: So the scene you just mentioned, the ax battle, that was really difficult and a very long sequence that had a lot of moving parts to it. I wanted to really capture a very primitive feeling in that scene. The torch relay section with the torches and the fighting in the dark, that was all lit by real fire, no electric lights whatsoever, no electricity, so the DP and the director had to really think about how to do it and we’re very proud with how it came out.
MB: That’s awesome! How big was the set, how many cars? Were there 9 cars or something like that?
Bong: I built a total of 26 train cars, there not all combined at once. So four train car sets, or three or two, so while I was shooting on this set they were building another one and then they’d break down this one when they were done and then rebuild so that they’d be ready.
MB: Last question, what’s going to be your next film and do you plan on making any more in English?
Bong: Now I’m writing two scripts at the same time. One is Korean language, a very small budget movie, the other one is half Korean, half English language, shot half in South Korea, half in NY, Manhattan, so it’s a mixture. I don’t know what I’m going to do first and don’t have titles yet.