This year, the Korean Cultural Centre UK begun their ambitious 2013 film programme, ‘The Year of the 4 Actors’. After the success of the ‘Year of the 12 Directors’ in 2012, the KCC UK embarks on another bold project, this time bringing four actors or actresses over to the UK throughout the year. In a similar set up to when ‘The Year of the 12 Directors’ took place, the featured actress or actor will have several of their films screened before coming over to London to do a Q&A at the last of their films showing. This year, each actor or actress will have five of their films shown, fortnightly at the KCC UK, with the sixth film showing at a cinema with the Q&A taking place once the film has ended.
“Acting is a job where your ability has to be exhausted. I am often scared when I think about my own strengths” (source)
Starting off this programme is actress Moon So-ri. Moon So-ri is an experienced actress who’s played a wide array of roles in films of varying genres. Having always shown an interest in acting, she gained attention in her debut film Peppermint Candy, but it was her second film Oasis that gained her wider recognition and gained her the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best New Young Actor or Actress at the 2002 Venice Film Festival. Moon is the only other Korean actor to win an award at the VFF, demonstrating just how remarkable her performance was to gain international recognition at such an early stage in her career.
She’s continued to show how versatile she can be throughout her career, showing many different facets of her acting ability and range, and has worked with some of the most influential korean directors, such as Im Sang-soo and Hong Sang-soo. Not only can Moon So-ri act amazingly, but she’s also skilled in the violin, gayageum and can perform Pansori! She’s obviously a woman who is not afraid of a challenge, and she believes actresses should cope with various characters even if there are risks to their career, and her faith has made her grow into a versatile actress in comparatively few movies (source). About her role in Oasis, Moon So-ri said “When I was first offered the role in Oasis, director Lee Chang-dong told me that it might be my last movie and I might not get any more roles. But I just said ok” (source). With a positive attitude, and not being afraid to make bold moves with her role choices, she’s a great choice to open the ‘Year of the 4 Actors’ and is sure to entertain the audiences when she arrives.
So far, the KCC UK has screened four of the six films in the Moon So-ri section. Each film has showcased a different side to her and shown how she does brilliantly in the roles she’s taken up. The sixth film to be shown is still a mystery as of yet, so we’ll all have to hold tight until it’s revealed which film it is!
The President’s Barber (2004)
Playing the spouse of Seong Han-mo (Song Kang-ho), we see Moon So-ri’s character play the part of a wife and mother. Although Moon So-ri’s character doesn’t take centre stage in the film, as Song Kang-ho and the character of his son fill these spaces, she still manages to deliver a vibrant and fun performance. She portrays the everyday struggles and weariness of being Song Kang-ho’s wife with verve and attitude, but can also deliver the performance of a loving mother. When Seong Nak-han (Lee Jae-eung), Moon So-ri’s child in the film, goes through a traumatic experience (won’t spoil it for you), the emotions Moon So-ri shows are striking and emotive. We wrote a review about this film here, so if you want to know more about the film in general, why not have a look.
A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003)
In an interview, Moon So-ri once said “an actress shouldn’t avoid a movie because she has to shoot explicit scenes, if they are necessary for the film“ (source), and this statement definitely applies to this film. Moon So-ri plays the role of Eun Ho-jeong, a dancer who put aside her career to become a good wife to her lawyer husband Ju Yeong-jak (Hwang Jung-min). In this film, Moon So-ri displayed a completely different side of herself than we saw in The President’s Barber….both in character and physically. She shows how confident she is in herself as an actress that she is able to spend quite a bit of the film sans clothes and seems completely natural and relaxed this way. The physicality she shows in this film, as a dancer, is very impressive and showcases a very different side of her acting. The raw emotions she expresses towards the end of the film, in response to a traumatic event, are truly heart breaking. For her role in this, she won four awards for Best Actress (Grand Bell Awards 2004, Korean Film Awards 2003, Busan Film Critics Awards 2003, Stokholm Film Festival 2003).
Peppermint Candy (2000)
This film as Moon So-ri’s first full length feature film, and a chance for her to showcase her skills in a film that would reach a wide audience. Her character in this film, even though mentioned often, wasn’t actually seen on screen much. However, she was still able to portray a sense of innocence in her young character, and in emotional scenes she was able to gracefully express great sadness in a simple way. Even in her first feature film, she still had an air of grace about her that she still has to this day. You can read our review of this film here.
In this film we see Moon So-ri play the role of Hyun-jung. Dumped by her beloved boyfriend, Min-suk (Lee Seon-gyun) while on a supposed romantic weekend away, she finds herself soon dating the awkwardly persistent Sang-hoon (Kim Tae-woo), whose tactics of consistently handing out his business cards to her soon wears her down. After her marriage to Sang-hoon hits a rough patch and ex-boyfriend Min-suk shows up unexpectedly, how will the relationships play out? Moon So-ri gives us another moving performance in this film, portraying her character as one who’s found herself stuck in a rut and left in the doldrums from her daily life. She manages to get across the feeling of longing for something more out of life, emotionally and physically.
Her portrayal of the character Han Gong-ju, who has cerebral palsy, in this film won her four awards and huge recognition, both domestically and internationally. It’s because of this film that Moon So-ri said she won “a lifetime worth of awards” (source). Having taught students with cerebral palsy as a volunteer in the past, it seems she was the perfect choice for this film and could use her experiences to show the struggles of her character. Although this role was clearly a difficult one for her to act, as she said the role was a hard one physically and mentally, she didn’t back down and showed how she was an actress that could cope with any role.
Others – Fly, penguin (2009) and Forever the Moment (2008)
Although not part of the six films being shown before Moon So-ri’s visit as part of the programme, these films have been shown at the KCC, both films in preparation for Director Lim Soon-rye’s visit for ‘The Year of the 12 Directors’. In Fly, penguin Moon So-ri plays super pushy mother to an overwrought son who’s being made to go to every extra-curricular programme as possible. Moon So-ri shows a different side to herself yet again as the straight-laced mother who’s overly concerned about her child’s intellectual progress compared to his peers. In contrast, in Forever the Moment, she plays Ham Mi-sook, handball veteran and overburdened wife and mother. In this film we see her display both her physical side and her emotional again.
It seems whatever role Moon So-ri is given, she can adapt well and isn’t afraid to bare her soul (and everything else) to give touching and emotionally charged performances. She clearly enjoys taking roles where there may be difficult subject matter to deal with and can face any challenge in acting head on. We’re sure she’ll be an amazing person to have on the ‘Year of the 4 Actors’ programme and are awaiting her appearance and Q&A!
Interview with Moon So-ri can now be seen here!