Even after Cannes nod, director Park Chan-wook can't hide his nerves

Park Chan-wook, who was named Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his movie “Decision to Leave,” says he's more nervous about the response from Korean audiences.

“The most important concern is how the Korean audience will see the film once it is released,” Park said at a local press event held at JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul in eastern Seoul Thursday. “Compared to my previous works, there are more elements in this film that only Koreans will be able to understand, especially regarding the Korean dialogue by Tang Wei. So I’m more nervous to find out how the Korean audience will see it — even more so than I was about winning an award at a foreign film festival.”

Park is had just returned from Cannes on Tuesday after winning his third prize at the prestigious event. His 2003 film “Oldboy” won the Grand Prix at the 57th edition and his 2009 film “Thirst” won the Jury Prize at the 62nd edition.

According to Park, the narrative for “Decision to Leave” was inspired by the Martin Beck police mystery series, written by Swedish authors Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

“I think it’s been three to four years now [since I came across the books again] — but I first read the translations of Martin Beck's 10 novels when I was in high school,” Park said. “I’ve been wanting to make a film about a police detective like Martin Beck, someone who is considerate and gentlemen-like.”

“Decision to Leave” revolves around a married police detective named Hae-jun (portrayed by Park), who begins to fall for Seo-rae (portrayed by Tang Wei), a Chinese widow who becomes the prime suspect when a body is discovered at the bottom of a mountain and the police begin to investigate the incident.

From left, actor Tang Wei, director Park Chan-wook and actor Park Hae-il pose for the cameras at a local press event for the film "Decision to Leave," held at JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul in eastern Seoul Thursday. [NEWS1]

“One important principle that we [screenwriter Jeong Seo-kyeong and I] decided to keep no matter what was not to topple the balance between romance and police investigation,” Park said. “A reporter at Cannes asked me if it was okay to describe the film as 50 percent investigative drama and 50 percent romance, but I thought it would be better to say it’s 100 percent of both genres. I’m not playing with words — the point is that the two genres cannot be separated from one another in this film. At one point it’s a love story but at another point it’s an investigation: A detective meets a suspect, gains information about her, questions her, follows her and goes on a stakeout to watch her. He waits for her outside. The whole process of investigation is like how a couple begins their relationship. The questioning itself is like a long conversation two people have, and everything that a couple might do comes up during the process. They entice, reject and resent one another and find excuses [to explain their actions].”

Both lead actors Park and Tang Wei said that the film has a different vibe from Park Chan-wook’s prior films.

“There is a different subtlety to this particular film compared to Park Chan-wook’s other works,” Park said. “The overall tone has become lighter, and there were qualities [of the character] which aroused my curiosity and gave me room to challenge myself.”

“If I compare this to taste, I think Park Chan-wook’s prior works tasted heavy, but this film is more direct and powerful,” Tang Wei said. “If his other films were like kimchi, this film tastes more sweet, light and refreshing, like [the foods] that I ate in my hometown Hanzhou, China.”

"Decision to Leave" will be released in local theaters on June 29.