In “Oasis” her role was that of a woman with severe cerebral palsy. It was her performance in this film that won her international renown at the 59th Venice Film Festival. The talented Korean actress Moon So-ri visited Sapporo in October of 2009 to be a jury member of the Sapporo International Short Film Festival. We conversed about her experiences acting in short films as well as her thoughts on the career of acting.
Moon left her most lasting of impressions in Lee Chang-dong's "Oasis" (2002). Breathing life into her character, Gong-Ju, Moon gained her self a new talent award in Korea as well as the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Actor or Actress at the 59th Venice Film Festival. Moon was 28 at the time. She claims to have received "a lifetime worth of awards," in her second commercial feature film of her career.
She hasn't starred in many, but she has a definite eye for exceptional films. Her filmography following her performance in "Oasis" can attest to that.
Moon starred in the TV show "Legend" along with Bae Yong-joon as the character Kajin. "Legend" has been running on BShi for the second time from November 2nd, 2009.
Promoting a place for new directors and actors to shine
After her debut film, "Peppermint Candy", Moon starred in several short films. She did this in part because friends in the industry asked her to star in their films, and part because the material genuinely interested her. She enjoys collaborating with new directors dealing with subject matter difficult to tackle in commercial films.
Even with Moon's experiences in short films, she commented that the short films she saw in Sapporo were "masterpieces." This article was written before any awards were given in the festival, so she avoided any comments on specific films. "The short films I saw rivaled the quality of commercial feature films," she said.
Moon is still often asked to star in short films, but declines those offers now. "Short films are a very important medium for new actors. I can't stay in this medium and prevent others from using them the way I have, as a stepping stone." Even in the midst of this competitive industry, Moon has a caring heart.
"Why me?" A standing ovation following endless struggles
Let's return to Moon's crowning achievement, "Oasis". A contorted expression and rigid limbs housed a range of emotions from happiness to rage, bursting at the seams like an overstuffed doll.
Moon studied education in college. During that time she taught students with cerebral palsy as a volunteer on a weekly basis. She mentioned her experiences to director Lee Chang-dong, who later began to write the screenplay for "Oasis". When it was complete, he said, "There are no actresses that want to take this role. Would you like it?" For Moon, this was the beginning of endless days spent in front of a video camera at her house practicing her role.
The actress she saw in the monitor was far from the glamorous actress she wished to see. "Why me?" she questioned her self. Her frustration mounted; some days she wanted to run away. Lee Chang-dong was the one who pushed her to the edge, but it was also his words that brought her back to reality. "Let's change how the world perceives beauty."
The Korean film industry is full of beautiful actors. It's hard to believe, but Moon claims to be "off" compared to most beautiful women in Korea. The director liked this. Moon would play a disabled woman who cannot articulate any sentence and can only express emotion by awkward body movements. What could this person be feeling? "Let's ask society what beauty really is," said Lee. This was the real challenge the director faced in making "Oasis".
This story behind the scenes has a fairytale ending. The world gave Moon a standing ovation, and a new star was born.
"Oasis" Written and Directed by Lee Chang-dong
Video courtesy of Cinequanon
(C)2002 Cineclick Asia All Rights Reserved
Picking up the phone, putting on lipstick. To most, these are normal, everyday actions needing less effort than walking to the car. To Moon's character in "Oasis", they are challenges that must be surpassed.
To be human first, actress second
In the 2004 film, "The President's Barber", Moon co-starred with Song Kang-ho who also holds the hearts of many Japanese fans. She learned the importance of ensemble through working on this film. "Song Kang-ho is a genius of acting. If his mouth opens, he's speaking about film. Nothing else. I learned a lot from him."
In "The President's Barber" Moon played Song Kang-ho's wife. In 2008, she starred in "Forever the Moment", a film about the Korean women's handball team that won a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics. The film depicted the pressure of representing a country, as well as the struggles of a new generation taking over for the last. "Even if they didn't stand at the top, they did something they will never forget. I want the audience to see what real effort feels like," Moon says, about the sport film that makes you laugh through tears.
When asked about the set, "There weren't any actresses on set. They were all athletes. We rarely had a chance to touch up our make up because we simply needed to rest between cuts." The balance of pain and joy seems to emanate from this film. Her films, "Oasis", "The President's Barber", and "Forever the Moment" are all released on DVD in Japan. They are all worth a watch for someone that has never seen her work.
About her debut film "Peppermint Candy" and "Oasis", Moon comments, "Lee Chang-dong taught me about life."
What could be next for Moon, an actress that has an eye for film? "I have no preference for my next film. I'm waiting to meet the right director." She listed directors Hirokazu Koreeda and Shinobu Terajima when asked about her favorite Japanese filmmakers.
Hearing her preference, it brings much hope for collaboration between Korea and Japan.
Moon is currently 35. She makes one wonder what her acting will be like in ten or twenty years. "How I decide to live as a human being will decide what kind of actor I become," she says. She lives above and beyond each role she plays. She lives as her self.
Article by Yuko Sato
blog "mimini bananaga (a banana in my ear)http://mimibana.exblog.jp/
Translation by David Neptune