‘Hell’ is a video adaptation of a webtoon of the same name created by director Yeon Sang-ho of ‘Train to Busan’ and ‘Peninsula’ with writer Choi Gyu-seok of ‘Awl’. It depicts a supernatural phenomenon in which people are sentenced to hell by the messengers of hell who appeared without warning, and the religious organization Saejinrihoe, which was revived in the midst of this chaos, and those trying to uncover the truth of the incident intertwined.
Director Yeon Sang-ho made his own worldview more firmly through ‘Hell’ following ‘Train to Busan’ and ‘Peninsula’. The whole world is focusing on his ‘universe’, which crosses animation, drama, and film with his limitless imagination.
The following is a Q&A by Ajou Economy and Director Yeon Sang-ho.
‘Hell’ topped the Netflix TV program category
– On the day ‘Hell’ was released, I waited, thinking, ‘It would be nice to be ranked 2nd in Korea’. The content rankings are updated around 11pm, but I was surprised that it started with 1st place instead of 2nd place, and I was like, ‘I’m glad’. The next day, the CEO of the production company told us about ‘Global No. 1’, and frankly, I was bewildered. It’s embarrassing and I’m grateful.
How did ‘Hell’ captivate audiences around the world? In what ways do you think it drew sympathy and response?
– Probably because the story of ‘hell’ is universal and not limited to any region. Concerns and empathy about sin and punishment, life and death, etc., seem to be effective. Also, I think that the trust that Korean movies and dramas showed the world about 10 years ago was built up, and the results we have today were able to come out.
Did you feel burdened by the huge box office success of ‘Squid Game’?
– When ‘Squid Game’ was a global hit and ‘Hell’ was coming out, I thought, ‘Oh, I’m really lucky.’ It seems that I received more help than burden.
He is also the author of the webtoon. You must have been worried about the match rate between the original and the drama.
– I didn’t think about the match rate regarding the casting of actors. I thought that the similarity in appearance didn’t mean much. The video moves and breathes, isn’t it? When I saw the character on a still screen, I thought about who the actor was who resembled the atmosphere of the character, not the resemblance. It has to be expressed through an actor, so I thought that the actor had to reach the audience with the acting he could do best. In my case, since ‘Peninsula’, instead of reading, I made a place to brief the actors and production team about the direction of the work. Every time I asked the actors, they said, ‘I want them to be free in a big frame’.
Longtime fans responded that ‘Hell’ was the most directorial for Yeon Sang-ho.
– What I always worry about while working on short animations, etc., is that my inclination itself is not popular. The fact that I like only a few people was actually one of the things that bothered me. Because you need a budget when making art. Don’t you have to satisfy the majority to get a budget? However, working with Netflix is different from the existing methods of releasing Korean dramas and movies, and it is open all over the world. Even if this story is a bit minor, I thought it could be shared widely. In addition, (Netflix) said that it is okay to work with a sufficient budget, so this work seems to be able to capture what I want to do and what I can do.
In a catastrophic situation, the chaos of the world and the people exposed to violence must have caused a lot of concerns about water level control.
– If you look at Alfredo Hitchcock’s movie ‘Psycho,’ the bathroom murder scene is very terrifying. However, there are no actual brutal scenes. ‘Hell’ was also directed with the thought that the situation itself felt terrible rather than actively showing the demonstration scene.
Nevertheless, there are many responses that assault the elderly, attitudes toward the weak, and the level of violence are high.
– It was because of the extreme depiction of the violence of arrowheads. I agree that there may be other expressions. We had to discuss and decide on water level control. In the webtoon, there were more extreme and violent scenes, and they were excluded while filming. It was the result I was trying to describe in a different way.
Among the reactions to ‘Hell’, there were many compliments about the actors. There was even a story about whether Yoo Ah-in had in mind the role of Chairman Jeong Jin-soo from the beginning.
– I first met Yoo Ah-in during the shooting exam for ‘Burning’. His attitude toward his work left a deep impression on me. Since then, I have been watching Yoo Ah-in with interest, and while reorganizing the role of Jung Jin-soo, I suddenly thought that she resembles Yoo Ah-in. Jinsoo Jeong has a hard logic that is twisted inside, and he thinks that they should stick out. Yoo Ah-in was the perfect character, and I think he expressed it delicately, sensitively, and crafted. I think the impression of Yoo Ah-in that I met during the ‘Burning’ exam also played a big role in making Jeong Jin-soo.
Park Jung-min acted contrary to director Yeon Sang-ho’s plan, but in the end he said, ‘That’s right’. What did ‘Bae Young-jae’ look like in the first place?
– I thought Bae Young-jae was a character similar to the reader who saw the work. Bae Young-jae wanted to be normal. In cartoons, if you tried to show the ordinary in a cross-section, Park Jung-min showed it in various ways. I mixed up my irritation and tried various methods to find my daily tone. Watching Park Jung-min act, I thought, ‘There are many ways, methods, and visions to express the ordinary.’
Personally, I was really impressed with actor Kim Shin-rok.
– We met for the first time as a mother in ‘Method’. At that time, director Kim Yong-wan liked the plays and short films of actor Kim Shin-rok and said he wanted to cast him. I didn’t know much about Kim Shin-rok, so I decided to trust and support director Kim Yong-wan’s choice. And when I saw the edited version of ‘Method’, I was really surprised. ‘Was the role of Baek So-jin’s mother such a three-dimensional character?’ It was filled with so much smoke. I became a fan of Kim Shin-rok after watching ‘Method’ and also ‘Hell’ together.
There was a scene that really impressed me personally. In the play, there was a scene where Eun-yul, the son of Park Jeong-ja, shouted and asked questions to the people of the Saejinrihoe. However, I felt that the emotional line did not match. I was thinking about it right before filming, and in that scene, Shin-rok Kim said, ‘I’ll do it’ and yelled at the child and scolded him. There was no agreement on pushing them into the room and scolding them, and there was no recording or preparation in the room. On the contrary, I felt that it suited me well. It felt more intense than crying with Eun-yul. He is a creative actor.
Hell’s messenger was voiced by Jung Ji-so.
– I think ‘hell’ is a cosmic horror. The cosmic horror genre deals with the fear of the unknown and the supernatural. Viewers will be curious about the existence of an angel, and I thought it would be nice to make it like an Easter egg. Just like the first zombie in ‘Train to Busan’ was Shim Eun-kyung (who voiced the main character in ‘Seoul Station’, the prequel of ‘Train to Busan’). Also, there was a feeling that the early concept art resembled Jung Ji-so.
The identity of the messenger of hell was not revealed until the very end.
– Cosmic horror deals with the fear of the unknown, but if its identity is revealed, I think it will deviate from the genre characteristics. A follow-up story is being made, and although the identity of the messenger of hell is not clearly revealed in season 2, it will be explained in more detail than now.
When will season 2 be available?
– Season 2 is expected to come out first as a manga in the second half of next year. Actually, I said with writer Choi, ‘Even if it takes 5 or 6 years for season 2, let’s do it when we’re ready and have some spare time’, but the good response from ‘Hell’ made me greedy. Before being forgotten by people, we shared opinions on whether it would be good for both the work and the viewers if it came out when there was a lingering impression.
As for the videography, I haven’t met Netflix after the release of the work, so I don’t know what they think about season 2. ‘Hell’ is an original comic book, and the intellectual property (IP) belongs to me and writer Choi. Netflix has the priority for filming, but if you say not to do season 2, there is a possibility that it will be filmed through other platforms.
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