During the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, where Lady Vengeance screened under its original title, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, director Park Chanwook (through a translator) discussed payback, villains, and cyborgs.
SFBG Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance don't really form a conventional trilogy in terms of characters and plots — but they share themes [betrayal, revenge] and motifs [child kidnappings, kidney transplants]. Were all three films conceived at once?
PARK CHANWOOK They just happened. I didn't plan them from the beginning. After the first film [Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance], I didn't want to make another film about revenge, but somebody brought me a very nice script about revenge: Oldboy. The third one [Lady Vengeance] actually came out in relation to the questions I received at a press conference before filming Oldboy. People asked, why would I deal with revenge again?
SFBG What made you decide to have a female character as the lead in the final film?
PC Because it's the last film of the trilogy. In my previous films, the females did not have any major roles. I wanted to compensate for the lack of female presence, so I decided to have a female as the lead character. I wanted to give it a different touch, so I thought a female would be best.
SFBG The lead actor from Oldboy [Choi Min-sik] also appears in Lady Vengeance. Why did you choose to use him again, and why did you cast him as a villain instead of a hero this time?
PC There's no direct connection between those two films, simply because it's the same actor. He happens to be a great actor who can portray the role of a villain. Actually, the actor Choi had never taken any role as a villain previously — his image in Korea is warm and like a patriarch. In this film he has this image of a children's teacher, but underneath there is this image of villain. The fixed image actually helped to disguise the real villain.
SFBG Your films are known for being violent, but there is also a sense of humor, however dark, that's very apparent in all of them. What do you think is the connection between humor and violence?
PC I wanted to avoid ending the film with a dark, heavy scene because I wanted to give the audience room to have a more intelligent interpretation of the whole story. If you have only violence then you may miss that chance. This way, you can step back and think about it more objectively.
SFBG What's next for you?
PC The title of my next film is I Am Cyborg — that's the direct translation from Korean. Once I release it the English title might be different. It's the story of this mental patient who thinks that she may be a cyborg, and she meets a boy. It's a romance! (Cheryl Eddy)