From left, actors Lee Kwang-Soo and Kim Hye-jun, director Kim Ji-hoon, actors Kwon So-hyun, Nam Da-reum, Cha Seung-won and Kim Sung-kyun, pose for pictures during a media conference held in Yongsan-gu, central Seoul, Monday. Courtesy of Showbox
By Lee Gyu-lee
The upcoming tentpole, “Sinkhole,” about a group of people who fall 500 meters underground, is seeking to set a new paradigm of disaster movies by adding comedy to the genre.
“Combining two different genres didn’t come easy. It was a great challenge (for me and the production team) to put light-hearted humor into a disastrous situation,” the film’s director Kim Ji-hoon said during a media conference held in Yongsan-gu, central Seoul, Monday.
A poster for the film / Courtesy of Showbox
Dong-won (Kim Sung-kyun) is an ordinary father figure, who is the patriarch and breadwinner of his family. He has been working hard towards his goal of owning a house, and his dream finally comes true when he buys his own apartment in a small building after 11 years.
He is having the time of his life, except for his cat-and-mouse relationship with a nosy, irritating neighbor called Man-soo (Cha Seung-won) after an unpleasant encounter on the day he moved in.
Meanwhile, Dong-won invites his coworkers ― Seung-hyun (Lee Kwang-Soo) and intern Eun-joo (Kim Hye-jun) ― for a housewarming party. But the party soon becomes a catastrophe when the entire building falls down into a massive sinkhole, leaving Dong-won and Man-soo, each with their sons, to come together to survive, along with the coworkers.
Kim Ji-hoon, who directed the 2012 disaster film, “Tower,” which takes place in a 108-story building on fire, said he tried to focus on sharing an optimistic message with his latest film.
“‘Tower’ was all about showing a disastrous situation, whereas with ‘Sinkhole,’ I tried to deliver a hopeful message with a touch of humanity and good humor,” he said. “I thought that a sinkhole would be an interesting setting for the film. Because we’ve never been there, it gave me the creative freedom to add from my imagination.”
The film lacks edge-of-the-seat, high-flying action from the survivors compared to previous disaster films. But it fills in this void with comic moments and witty characters, like Seung-hyun and Man-soo.
The director noted that he wanted the characters to portray normal people who resonate with viewers.
“The cast members and I discussed a lot about how we, as ordinary people, would try to survive in a disaster if we went through that situation in real life. And I tried to show how they would react and come together as a team to survive without turning against each other,” he said. “The cast also helped me a lot by giving me ideas about the comedic scenes.”
A scene from the film / Courtesy of Showbox
Man-soo, who is a single father juggling three jobs to raise his son, comes off as a strange character, showing unconvincing hostility towards Dong-won when they first meet. His exaggerated gestures and expressions almost seem obnoxious and trying too hard to force humor onto the audience.
But as the story goes on, the character settles in and blends with the other co-survivors, after the building sinks into the hole, eventually playing the key figure among the survivors.
Actor Cha expressed that the fellow cast members helped him to easily get into his role. “The script was very well-written and pretty self-explanatory. I didn’t really have to spend too much to study my role, but it was the co-stars that helped me build my character as we created the scenes together,” he said.
Actor Kim Sung-kyun added that the film set, which created a realistic environment down in a sinkhole, helped him play his role.
“The actor who played my son in the film is actually about the same age as my real sons. As we were thrown into the water and had to go through all those tough scenes together on the set, these scenes made him feel like my real son and helped me to get into the role better,” he said.
The actors said that they hope this movie will offer a good laugh to audiences especially during the tough times of the ongoing pandemic.
“When we shot the film, we didn’t expect it to come out during such a difficult time,” Lee said. “If the audience can have a good time with a laugh and a touching moment through our film, I won’t hope for anything more.”
Cha added, “I hope this film can take your mind off of your burdens during this harsh, stagnant time… a lot of money has been put into this film and you’ll be able to see that.”
“Sinkhole” will have its premiere at the Locarno Film Festival, which kicks off Wednesday in Switzerland, and is set to hit local theaters on Aug. 11.