Thursday saw the world premiere of the French-made, Korea-set romantic thriller, “Vanishing” at the Busan International Film Festival. Its director Denis Dercourt said that the movie attempts to straddle both cultures.
Adapted from the Peter May novel, “The Killing Room,” the script was in the works for eleven years, according to Alexis Dantec, the film’s producer. Originally slated for launch in 2020, filming was delayed due to the pandemic.
The picture stars Olga Kurylenko, best known for her Bond girl performance in “Quantum of Solace,” and Korea’s Yoo Yeon Seok, whose most recent works include films “Steel Rain 2: Summit” and “New Year Blues,” and Ye Ji-won.
The story follows a forensic scientist (played by Kurylenko) who invented a technique for restoration of damaged corpses. She visits Korea for a conference and upon the request of a Korean police detective (played by Yoo), assists in an investigation. That leads to the discovery of an organ-trafficking syndicate.
During an intimate Busan press conference on Friday, Dercourt said, “We originally wanted to shoot in China, but since censorship was a challenge, we had to consider other options.”
“Korean entertainment is very trendy in France now and its influence globally made shooting in Korea a clear choice,” Dercourt said. “The experience was nothing but good and thanks to the crew, we shot everything in 20 days.”
Dercourt said that when collaborating with talented actors or a diligent crew, he is undeterred by language barriers. “I give my actors a lot of freedom to express themselves as their characters and, just like music, you can feel their performance.”
Dercourt spoke highly of the actors and said, “[Yoo] Yeon Seok is rather shy. And we had no idea how popular a star he is. He was keen to learn the European way of directing and I wanted to understand the Korean way of acting.”
Dercourt said, “It was hard bringing both countries’ cultures together, not only with language differences, but tiny nuances that would make or break the film. For example, the French have a very different take on romance compared to Koreans, so we had to modify part of the script and storyline for it to be realistic and appeal to audiences from both cultures.”
Ye displayed French proficiency in her role as an interpreter and, being an avid fan of French culture, said she was thrilled to be part of “Vanishing” at the premiere’s Q&A session. Dercourt said, “I included [Ye] Ji-won’s character for more French in the film and to demonstrate a woman’s inner conflict between right and wrong.”
This combines French and Korean elements. But Dercourt wanted to ask the audience whether the film felt more French or Korean. In a room filled to maximum occupancy after its first screening on Thursday, the majority voted “Korean.” Dercourt said he took that as a compliment.