Cannes: Doona Bae, Kim Sae-ron and Song Sae-byuk discuss A Girl at My Door

July Jung‘s A Girl at My Door explores many difficult themes, including child abuse, mental health, alcoholism and homophobia, always in a very sensitive manner. The characters in A Girl at My Door are complex and therefore the three principal actors, Doona Bae, Kim Sae-ron and Song Sae-byuk, have a lot of difficult work to do.

I was lucky enough to speak to the three shortly after the film’s premiere in Cannes and they filled me in on how they developed their characters and the difficulties involved.

Song Sae-byuk: It [A Girl at My Door] was such a lovely chance to finally work together [with Kim Sae-ron], because I loved how she would act in different movies. I always wanted to be in a movie with her and it’s now realised.

Kim Sae-ron: I feel like I’ve finally met someone that I’ve known for such a long time and we finally had a reunion. There’s such a good chemistry between us two and I really enjoyed working with him.

There was no micro-managing direction from director July Jung. Instead she gave us directions like hints. She would hint the directions so the actors could find it themselves and fully express their feelings. Whenever I had to act out such a dark character, instead of Jung pointing her finger at something she would tell me a story. Like about a cat and a mouse or something, to better explain how Doo-hee might be feeling. That helped a lot as guidelines to achieve this character.

There is no notable scene that I had trouble with but overall it was a very hard character to convey because it’s a very mysterious character. I was constantly thinking to myself, what kind of character am I acting and who is she. I tried to understand the character by myself and I think it worked out in this particular film.

Over time I have had more experiences and met more people, many more actors and actresses, and I’ve had ample amount of time and opportunity to finally take things to the next level. I think I’ve reached several levels over time and now I am here.

The reason I picked this film was that I already knew that this was going to be a huge challenge to play such a dark scenario. This made me concerned as to whether I should pick this movie or not but ultimately I thought to myself that this is a movie that I had to. And now here I am.

Song Sae-byuk: I’ve reached several levels too and consider myself more mature after this film. Because this movie makes you think, in several different ways. Because the atmosphere is such a calm and beautiful landscape with a very roaring, very rough energy that is possessed inside. Which makes all the performers wonder, what am I going to do in this atmosphere and situation? And such thought processes, experiences and well written scenarios has definitely helped me reach several levels as a performer.

Doona Bae: Before A Girl at My Door I was considering… very charming or attractive characters. The things I would prioritise when picking movies, but now after A Girl at My Door I can really appreciate the film itself being well written. Instead of looking at the tree, now I’m looking at the forrest. Now I’m looking at a bigger landscape and this was a huge breakthrough for me.

Song Sae-byuk: The movie will be released in Korea in just two days and I will leave it up to the audience to decide if this is controversial for them or not.

Doona Bae: Although the film contains several controversies…. There are elements that people could make into social controversies, it does contain that, but it’s not about criticising all these social controversial phenomenons. It’s not about that, it’s more about human loneliness, about inner selves and the human nature of loneliness.

Although there are various themes of child abuse, things like that, they are just themes inside and I don’t think they are going to raise a controversy. People will actually find, through that, themselves more sympathetic to the film. Because of these elements.

Thanks again to all three for taking the time to talk with me. I also had a chat with director July Jung, and we’ll be bringing you that interview soon.