An upgrade to your Flash Player is necessary to view this site.
Get the latest version of the Flash Player
The talk of the 2006 Cannes International Film Festival and the latest film from critically acclaimed visionary director BONG Joon-ho, THE HOST has already garnered a substantial amount of international buzz. Utilizing state-of-the-art special effects, courtesy of a creative partnership between Weta Workshop (King Kong, The Lord of the Rings) and The Orphanage (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Sin City), THE HOST is both a creature-feature thrill ride and a poignant human drama.
Gang-du (SONG Kang-ho) works at a food-stand on the banks of the Han River. Dozing on the job, he is awakened by his daughter, Hyun-seo ( KO A-sung), who is angry with him for missing a teacher-parent meeting at school. As Gang-du walks out to the riverbank with a delivery, he notices that a large crowd of people have gathered, taking pictures and talking about something hanging from the Han River Bridge. The otherwise idyllic landscape turns suddenly to bedlam, when a terrifying creature climbs up onto the riverbank and begins to crush and eat people. Gang-du and his daughter run for their lives, but suddenly the being grabs Hyun-seo and disappears back into the river. The government announces that the monstrous thing apparently is the Host of an unidentified virus. Having feared the worst, Gang-du receives a phone call from his daughter who is frightened, but very much alive. Gang-du soon makes plans to infiltrate the forbidden zone near the Han River to rescue his daughter from the clutches of the horrifying Host…
The Han River
The River has flown with us and around us.
A fearsome Creature makes a sudden appearance from the depths of this river, so familiar and comfortable for us Seoulites.
The riverbanks are instantly plunged into a bloody chaos. The film begins at the precise moment, in which a space familiar and intimate to us, is suddenly transformed into the stage of an unthinkable disaster and tragedy.
Park Gang-du and his family have led ordinary, repetitive lives, never really extending beyond the confines of their small food stand on the banks of the Han River. They are devastated by the emergence of the Creature. Robbed of their peaceful daily routines, Gang-du and his family nonetheless throw themselves into a life-and-death struggle against the Creature. The film shows how these exceedingly normal people, no different from our everyday neighbors, are transformed into monster-fighting warriors.
A Fight to the Death
The Creature is not the only adversary they have to fight. For Gang-du and his family, impoverished, powerless “little people,” the whole world around them is revealed to be a true monster. They have to fight against it tooth and nail. In the end, the film is a record of their fight to the death against the indifferent, calculating and manipulative Monster known as the world.
Director BONG Joon-ho
SONG Kang-ho - PARK Gang-du
"You wouldn't need a lot of convincing to see that SONG is himself an otherworldly creature, erupting with an awesome level of explosive energy at the least expected moment."
-Director BONG Joon-ho
Born in 1967, SONG Kang-ho’s name enjoys the kind of credibility and bankability among viewers and filmmakers unparalleled by any other actor in Korean cinema. He has never failed to win praise and admiration from both the paying audience and film critics. SONG’s immense faith in Director BONG Joon-ho showed when he agreed to participate in The Host after reading only its synopsis. In the film, SONG plays Gang-du, an immature and simple-minded character. With his hair dyed a tacky yellow and his uncertain posture wrapped up in loose-fitting jumpers bulging at the kneecaps, SONG is set to display yet more unknown aspects of his multifaceted talent.
2005 Antarctic Journal (dir. YIM Pil-sung)
2004 The President’s Barber (dir. LIM Charn-sarng)
2003 Memories of Murder (dir. BONG Joon-ho)
2002 Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (dir. PARK Chanwook)
2000 Foul King (dir. KIM Jee-woon)
2000 Joint Security Area: JSA (dir. PARK Chanwook)
1998 Shiri (dir. KANG Je-gyu)
1998 The Quiet Family (dir. KIM Jee-woon)
1997 No. 3 (dir. SONG Neung-han)
1997 Green Fish (dir. LEE Chang-dong)
PARK Hae-il - PARK Nam-il
“PARK is like a battery just taken out of a plastic package. He is so full of incredible energy.”
-Director BONG Joon-ho
Born in 1977, PARK Hae-il has commanded intense attention among viewers and critics since his debut. He has emerged as one of the leading actors among the younger generation, portraying a wide range of characters that ranges from a frightening murder suspect, to a fresh-faced, naïve youth, to a smarmy playboy, in which he garners critical praise at every turn. PARK transforms himself once again, this time into the slightly thuggish Nam-il in The Host. This is his second collaboration with Director BONG Joon-ho, following the magnetic “Memories of Murder.”
2005 Rules of Dating (dir. Han Jae-rim)
2004 My Mother the Mermaid (dir. PARK Heung-shik)
2003 Memories of Murder (dir. BONG Joon-ho)
2002 Jealously is My Middle Name (dir. PARK Chan-ok)
2001 Waikiki Brothers (dir. IM Soon-rye)
BAE Doo-na - Nam-joo
“To work with an actress like BAE Doo-na, who immerses herself completely in her roles, is a total pleasure for a film director.”
-Director BONG Joon-ho
Born in 1979, BAE Doo-na has proven to be a superb actress, who can refashion strong characters in diverse genres, in her own image. All of her characters are endowed with her own unique charm. Her commitment to this role is evident from the fact that she practiced archery for three months, in order to prepare for the character of Nam-joo. BAE’s fans might be stunned to see that she has foregone her trademarked short hair for a new wavy look, which was another choice of hers to best illustrate Nam-joo as a strong and silent type. Nam-joo’s character presents an opportunity for this powerhouse actress to take a new interesting direction in building up her already fascinating filmography.
2005 Linda, Linda, Linda (dir. Nobuhiro Yamashita)
2003 Tube (dir. BAEK Woon-hak)
2002 Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (dir. PARK Chan-wook)
2001 Take Care of My Cat (dir. JUNG Jae-eun)
2000 Barking Dogs Never Bite (dir. BONG Joon-ho)
KO A-sung - PARK Hyun-seo
“KO is young, to be sure, but I wouldn’t call her a child actress. She is an ‘actress,’ period.”
-Director BONG Joon-ho
Born in 1992, KO A-sung attracted attention in the TV drama Murmur of the Heart, capturing the hearts of many with her star-making performance. KO states, in her own words, “I believe to give a performance is to get closest to a character by plunging directly into the role.” In her enthusiasm and energy, not many adult actresses are her match. The beautiful and brave character of Hyun-seo in The Host, serves as her much anticipated screen debut.
BONG Joon-ho - Director
BONG Joon-ho studied Sociology at the University of Yonsei and graduated from the Korean Film Academy. By 1995 he made three short films Memories in My Frame, White Man and Incoherence.
He wrote and directed his first feature, Barking Dogs Never Bite, which won a Fipresci Award at the Hong Kong Film Festival in 2001. His second feature Memories of Murder won the Silver Shell award for best director in the San Sebastian Film Festival in 2003. In 2006 his third feature film, The Host, was selected for the Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival.
2004 Influenza (short, Digital Shorts by Three Filmmakers)
2004 Sink and Rise (short)
2003 Memories of Murder
San Sebastian Int’l Film Festival (Official Selection Competition)
: Silver Shell for Best Director, Altadis- New Director’s Award, FIPRESCI Award
2000 Barking Dogs Never Bite
Hong Kong Int’l Film Festival
: FIPRESCI Award
1995 Incoherence (short)
1994 Memories in My Frame (short)
1994 White Man (short)
KIM Hyung-goo - Cinematographer
Director of Cinematography, KIM Hyung-goo, has expanded the horizons of Korean cinema with his continuous experiments in such memorable films as Beat, Spring in My Home Town, One Fine Spring Day and Memories of Murder. He is a talented image-maker, whom is capable of capturing flamboyant dynamism and stillness in observation, with equal measures of exaction and skill. In The Host, Kim avoided obvious underwater and airborne photography choices and instead chose to concentrate on illustrating the emotional depths of the characters.
LEE Kang-san, JEONG Young-min – Lighting
LEE Kang-san and JEONG Young-min re-join forces with Director of Cinematography, KIM Hyung-goo, in their new and ambitious project, The Host. As veteran lighting directors, LEE and JEONG have reputations as being magicians of light, and have created stylized action scenes, along with aesthetically refined visual imagery in the course of their long careers.
RYU Seong-hee - Production Design
Production Designer, RYU Seong-hee, has created a distinctive look and atmosphere for Memories of Murder, Old Boy and A Bittersweet Life. She has been paid the ultimate compliment for a technical staff member, which describes her designs as being as essential to the movies as their main characters. RYU claims that she always agonizes over the borderline between reality and fantasy.
She has seized upon The Host as her perfect chance to depict the tensions generated by the strange, phantasmagorical presence of the Creature amidst the very realistic and mundane space of contemporary Seoul.
Byeongwoo LEE – Music
Composer Byeongwoo LEE is a premier guitarist and film composer in Korea, who has worked in a variety of genres. He also enjoys a reputation for being a top-ranked adaptor and music director. Lyrical, melodious and sturdy, LEE’s music has been touted as having opened a gate toward new possibilities for Korean film music. The Host shows LEE’s unique take on this tragic-comic and bizarre story of the Creature from Han River disrupting people’s ordinary lives.
Chungeorahm Film – Production Company
Chungeorahm Film, founded in 2001, is the only company in the movie industry that focuses exclusively on Korean films. It began as a distributor of Korean films, and has since produced The President’s Barber in 2004 and is quickly growing to become one of the leading film production and investment companies in South Korea. Chungeorahm Film endeavors in developing partnerships to co-produce and co-finance various projects with international marketability. The most recent such project is, The Host, directed by BONG Joon-ho (Memories of Murder) and co-financed by Happinet Co. of Japan.
The Orphanage - Visual Effects and Animation
A special effects shop founded by former members of Industrial Light and Magic, The Orphanage has drawn rave reviews for their startling design effects for blockbusters The Day After Tomorrow and Sin City. Most recently they have provided screen magic for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Superman Returns. Its staff members were immediately intrigued by the pre-production conceptual arts for The Host, guided by Director Bong Joon-ho, and expressed their enthusiasm for the project. As they claim, “We’re so glad to be the ones who breathe life into this creature and to have a chance to show our creative visuals. Everybody here at The Orphanage is excited for the fact that we can take part in this great project, The Host. The Orphanage is hard at work, making 3-D scanning datas, as well as filmed footage with live actors, in order to create a living and breathing Creature that is complete with realistic movements and a rich surface texture.”
Kevin Rafferty - VFX Supervisor
Kevin Rafferty has demonstrated his supervisory skills in a series of special effects extravaganzas including Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Jurassic Park II, Shark Tale and Men in Black II. Having been converted into a Bong Joon-ho fan, after seeing Memories of Murder, he claims to have read The Host screenplay twice in one sitting. “Unlike other clichéd Hollywood films,” Rafferty comments, “The Host is very interesting, but at the same time challenging. I’ve never done a project with this kind of uniqueness, which is exactly the point from which all the beauty of this project evolves.” Closely collaborating with Director Bong since the pre-production stage, Rafferty has stayed in Korea and devoted himself to coordinating the scenes filmed in Korea. Along with the special effects shots developed at The Orphanage, he carefully matches the tonality of each and every scene. Rafferty does not hide his enthusiasm for The Host, as he excitedly states “I’m so lucky and honored to have a chance to work with a great director like BONG Joon-ho!”
Weta Workshop - Scannable Maquette Production
The New Zealand-based Weta Workshop has given birth to a legend of its own, winning three Oscars in a row with its innovative and meticulous special effects in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong. In The Host, Weta was given responsibility for constructing exceedingly detailed and realistic miniature models of the Creature, which in turn served as a cornerstone for the digital and optical effects. Weta members have confidence in the quality of their work in The Host: “What the crew of The Host achieved within two years is equivalent to what Weta Workshop has spent money and time on in the last 17 years on past projects. The design of the Creature speaks for itself, and its quality is at a level that any top quality VFX guru will acknowledge.”
John Cox’s Creature Workshop - Creature Animatronix Construction
The Australian-based John Cox and Co. have previously won an Oscar with the delightful family fantasy, Babe, and have contributed numerous creatures to high-profile projects as Peter Pan. The Workshop members have constructed realistic, life-sized models to create The Host’s savage Creature., and have expressed strong faith in Director BONG’s commenting, “Director BONG is original and active. It’s an unforgettable experience for us to work with this great director, who knows how to control the set with a clear vision for each and every shot.”
JANG Hee-chul - Creature Design
For the past two years, JANG Hee-chul has been responsible for conceptualizing the Creature, starting at the point when the screenplay was completed in December 2003. He has overseen all facets and stages of its design, ranging from the Creature’s outer look, to the manners in which it moves its body. JANG has conducted extensive research in documentaries and monographs and studied a variety of fish and amphibians species, to construct a realistic design for a creature traversing both land and water . The final design for the Creature was approved after one year and four months spent on countless trials and errors. “I feel like a parent giving birth to a child,” JANG says. His task, however, was not complete with the design itself. He joined the special effects team in a collaborative partnership, advising them in their painstaking construction of this magnificently unique product of imagination, which has not been seen in any previous science fiction or horror film.
PARK Kang-du SONG Kang-ho
PARK Hee-bong BYUN Hee-bong
PARK Nam-il PARK Hae-il
PARK Nam-joo BAE Doo-na
PARK Hyun-seo KO A-sung
Director BONG Joon-ho
Screenplay BONG Joon-ho
Original Story BONG Joon-ho
Producer CHOI Yong-bae
Executive Producers CHOI Yong-bae
Co-Producer JOH Neung-yeon
Cinematography KIM Hyung-goo
Lighting LEE Kang-san
Production Design RYU Seong-hee
Wardrobe CHO Sang-kyung
Make-Up SONG Jong-hee
Recording LEE Seung-chul
Sound CHOI Tae-young (LIVETONE)
Editing KIM Sun-min
Music Byeongwoo LEE
VFX Supervisor Kevin Rafferty
Visual Effects and Animation by The Orphanage
Q&A WITH THE DIRECTOR
Has your perception of filmmaking changed from the time you shot the short “Incoherence” to your shooting commercial films?
The principle I stick to both then and now is to make films I want to see. I have a basic impulse to shoot films that I want to see, because nobody else shot then for me when I wanted to see them as a cinephile. Whether in “Barking Dogs Never Bite,” “Memories of Murder,” or “The Host,” my motivation is always the same. In the case of a commercial film, though, I have realistic constraints such as the interests of the investors, the casting, marketing and so forth. My impulse alone is not enough to make the film. So I need to package it in the manner of a statement, for example, say I interpret the genre of “The Host” in such and such a way, but for the audience, I need to spell out the kind of pleasure my films will give. But the bottom line is the same. I make films I want to see.
You call yourself a cinephile. What kind of films were you drawn to? Tell us about the history of your favorite movies.
If a cinephile means watching a lot of films, I wouldn’t be qualified as one. I tend to watch the same films I like over and over again. When I was in elementary school, I greatly enjoyed watching “The Wages of Fear” by Henri Georges Clouzot, which played on TV here. I also enjoyed “The Wild Bunch” and “Cross of Iron” by Sam Peckinpah, “The Great Escape” and “Papillon” starring Steve McQueen. After I went to college, I watched films by Asian directors like Hou Hsiao-hsien, Shohei Imamura and Kiyoshi Kurosawa with an attitude of studying films, thinking it would be nice to have such films in Korea.
In “Barking Dogs Never Bite” there were criticisms that the film was like a manga. In fact you too described your film in such a way. Where did your comic imagination come from? What are the sources of influences for your films other than the films you’ve watched?
I read manga a lot. I like people like Urazawa Naoki. I like drawing manga, and I draw my own storyboards for films. I hardly read any novels, but I enjoy taking photographs, too. If an image interests me, I keep it in my pocket, and become obsessive about it. Often I get a hint for my films through such images.
Is “The Host” (the Korean title translates as “The Creature”) closer to “Barking Dogs Never Bite” or “Memories of Murder”?
I think it will be even closer to a genre film than the two films I’ve shot. It is a film about a monster, which on its own has a strong character of a genre movie. But the story will also be suited within a specifically Korean context. The schizophrenia will become stronger. It is an open question how the audience will react to this. The structure of the scenes is very dramatic and entertaining, but the audience might respond more to the overall eerie atmosphere.
“Barking Dogs Never Bite” and “Memories of Murder” are similar in that there are unfamiliar aspects colliding against each other. How about “The Host”?
If “Barking Dogs” was focused on the collision between mundane life and manga-like fantasy, “Memories of murder” has a collision between a genre and the film’s realism. It was like a clash between an American genre of a thriller and the pandemonium of the Korean countryside in 1980s, in which cultivators were erasing all the suspect’s footsteps on the site of the crime. In “The Host” there is a clash when a monster appears in the middle of Seoul’s Han River, turning the area into a sea of blood. The monster genre, excluding “Godzilla” series from Japan, is in itself quite American. “The Host” might look as if it follows the conventions and excitement of the previous genre films, but it has scenes that we’ve never seen in western movies before, like corpses lying around the group memorial where families are hugging each other, crying.
In the script, there is a constant mix of extreme situations that are really frightening and comical.
It turned out that way. Maybe it had been in my instinct. A catastrophe is frightening and tragic, but at the same time, it accompanies some comical conditions. I was very shocked and sad when I heard that Sampoong Department Store collapsed. But it was funny how thieves in town flocked into the store after the accident, stealing golf clubs and luxury goods out of their import section. When an extreme catastrophe like that takes place, tragedy and comedy always come together. It’s inevitable, because people are out of control. Overall, the film is a story about family fighting against a monster. But it’s funny because they are not fighting with some cool laser guns. Of course, it wasn’t aimed at eliciting easy laughs. In Korea, a catastrophe is like that. It’s like a piece of theater of the absurd.
The English title of the film “The Host” gives a different feel to the movie.
I hope it gives a double meaning. On one hand, it has a biological connotation. On the other hand, it has a sociopolitical reference to the host.
Are there comical elements in “The Host” like your other films?
I think humor or eliciting string laughs is in my instinct. It comes out naturally. In “Memories of Murder”, for example, I didn’t have to look for right places to fit the humors in the film. It wasn’t calculated at all. I don’t think I would be able to shoot a film without humor, ever. Even if I were to shoot a horror film, I would find humor in it.
In “Memories of Murder”, the police were far from being articulate. The main characters in “The Host” are mostly from the working class. People who fight against the monster in the film are a family that owns a convenient store near the Han River. Do you deliberately choose these low-class people as main characters?
I am just drawn to these people. [Laughs] Hot shots stink. What drama could we get out of people who lead a smooth life?
Was there any particular reason you chose the Han River as the film’s background?
It probably reflects my own taste. It’s a space anyone living in Seoul passes by everyday. It’s also a place for the working class, whether it’s a family running a store there or people who spend the night there every summer because they don’t have an air conditioner at home. But as the monster appears in the river, the place suddenly turns into a dramatic, unfamiliar space. Like in “Barking Dogs” and “Memories of Murder”, I think my films deal with the clashes between life and fantasy, genre aspects and Korean subjects.
Is there any film you had in mind for “The Host”?
Only “Signs” by M. Night Shyamalan, but it might also be related to Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” in a way. When I first brought up the story of this film, people seems confused about the scale of the monster. Many thought of giant monsters like “Godzilla”, which in fact it’s the size of “Alien.” From a bigger perspective, “Jaws” is also a monster film. The monster in “The Host” is also a biological mutation. At any rate, I don’t think there are any similar texts.
Can we expect a film with a strong comic element?
There won’t be any feel of comic-science fiction. The nature of the catastrophe is supernatural, but the setting is present on the Han River. The characters are from the working class. Except for the huge catastrophe, everything else is ordinary. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs” is an example. The film takes place within the territory of a cornfield in the countryside, but that is also where an alien appears. It makes the incident look very real. That’s what “The Host” feels like.
(Source: Korean Film Directors Series “BONG Joon-ho: Mapping Reality within the Maze of Genre”, published by KOFIC and Cine 21)
©2006 Magnolia Pictures / BFC Berliner Film Companie