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‘Colony’ director hopes to move past cliches found in historical films

June 16,2017
For filmmakers, shedding light on historical figures is never easy. They have to be portrayed objectively without the least bit of beautification or derogation. Despite the difficulty, director Lee Joon-ik has taken on the challenge a number of times with his films “DongJu; The Portrait of a Poet” (2016) and “The Throne” (2015). Continuing his streak, the filmmaker is set to release another period movie in two weeks.

Starring Lee Je-hoon and Choi Hui-seo, Lee’s newest “Anarchist from Colony” revolves around an independence fighter named Park Yeol (Lee), who organizes an anarchist group during the Japanese colonial period (1910-45), and his lover Fumiko Kaneko (Choi), a Japanese anarchist.

Set in Tokyo in 1923, the story unfolds as the independence fighter and Fumiko are convicted of high treason for attempting to obtain bombs with the intention of conspiring to attack the Imperial House of Japan.

“Dealing with historical figures, especially those from modern history, can be dangerous and needs to be treated carefully,” said the filmmaker during a press preview held on Tuesday.

The director further explained that instead of merely focusing on historical figures and their dramatic achievements, he tried to reflect the period of time through their lives.

“The majority of period movies set during the Japanese colonial period either seriously deal with independence fighter’s struggle or are packed with action and focus on an individual’s victory, as can be seen in ‘Assassination’ (2015) and ‘The Age of Shadows’ (2016)… But I didn’t want to dichotomize [characters] as ‘bad Japanese’ and ‘victimized-yet-kind Koreans.’ I thought I would be able to reflect their (historical figures’) views on the world, society and country during this period of time.”

Regarding his character, actor Lee explained the message that the character delivers to the audience.

“Park Yeol is very radical, action-driven and extreme. And I believe Park Yeol is providing today’s young people an answer [and a chance to think about what should be done] about the unreasonable events occurring these days.”

Meanwhile, the director stressed that his new flick does not have anti-Japanese sentiment.

“This is not an anti-Japanese movie. [The audience] will know after watching the movie,” the director said, citing proof like Park Yeol’s line in the film, “though [I’m] against Japanese authorities, I feel a sense of intimacy to Japanese people.”

“Anarchist from Colony” is slated to hit theaters on June 28. It runs for 129 minutes, and is rated 12 and above.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]