Lee Chang-dong: Realistic Hope
“I’m always an optimist, and I mean that sincerely.”
I don’t know how many people will believe the above claim by Lee Chang-dong when they come face to face with the often unbearable dramatic weight carried by his films, or when they put themselves – even just briefly – in the shoes of his tormented heroes, ceaselessly plunging into a real hell on Earth. Heroes in search of identity (Green Fish), love (Oasis) or simply something to believe in (Secret Sunshine); heroes who are often reflections of their country or their creator (Peppermint Candy). Protagonists in a cinema that is existential, deeply physical, destined to be experienced in real time and therefore emotionally exhausting, without easy ways out for the viewer. Just like the world we live in. Lee is notorious for his passion for realism, for seeking out the limits of realistic representation through the image which is, by definition, deceptive; as well as for the exhausting demands he puts on his actors who usually walk away from film festivals loaded with awards; and also for his persistence in the simple form of melodrama, for his concentration on the novelistic narrative, a result of his literary origins; a persistence on simplicity that reaches new limits in his latest film, Secret Sunshine, bringing to mind the minimalism of Bresson, and perhaps also his metaphysics.
Lee Chang-dong is no stranger to this Festival. Exactly ten years ago, he participated in the international competition with his directorial debut, Green Fish, which was enough for him to be termed the great new hope.Today he’s considered one of the leading filmmakers in South Korea, but also internationally, and it is certainly a great honor for us to have him back here again, this time with a complete retrospective of his work.