THE NOVELIST’S FILM
소설가의 영화Directed by Hong Sang-soo
Cast: Lee Hye-young, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-hee
Silver Bear, 2022 Berlin International Film Festival
An elegant e-cigarette dangling from her gloved fingers, her whole body moving as she speaks—making people uncomfortable with withering critique and/or effusive interest—Kim Junhee (Lee Hye-yeong) is a starkly new presence in the hyper-polite Hong Sang-soo Universe. When she, The Novelist, goes toe to toe with The Film Director (Hong superstar Kwon Hae-hyo) over who has more charisma—they each insist it’s the other—it’s clear that she represents the next level in Hong’s explorations of artists and their sexual, social, and aesthetic relationships.
Over the course of one winding day of surprise reunions, awkward negotiations, and drunken dares, The Novelist decides to, and starts making, a film. She assembles a cast starring semi-retired film icon Kilsoo (played by semi-retired film icon Kim Min-hee), and a crew consisting solely of Kilsoo’s husband’s nephew. Throughout the day, she seems to have both a desperate, total confidence in her new project, and no idea what she’s doing.
We only see glimpses of the movie Kim Junhee ultimately makes. The film we do see, by Hong Sang-soo, is a funny, beguiling, low-key emotional rollercoaster. Feelings of anxiety and pleasure rise and crash over the course of a single shot. Filmed in a gorgeous high contrast black and white which hides as much as it reveals, THE NOVELIST’S FILM is either Hong Sang-soo’s clearest statement about cinema or another puzzle from this notorious trickster of a filmmaker. Lucky for us, it’s probably both.