Life, Once Again! - Chapter 418
Maru looked at director Joongjin while buttoning up his drill uniform. The atmosphere on the set was mainly decided by the director. Choi Joonggeun, the director of Twilight Struggles, was someone that didn’t talk a lot during shoots. The only words he spoke were: ‘again’ and ‘good’. Whether it was his senior or his junior; a lead actor, or a supporting actor, he did not speak to them in long sentences. He only sat in front of the monitor with an expressionless face and spoke from time to time. Once he got a good cut and the camera stopped, he would become ‘close brothers’ with the rest of the people.
Joonggeun’s method was to let the actors decide for themselves. It was a method that also pressured the actors considerably. There was no feedback during the shoot. He told the things he wrote down and thought of during the shoot to the actors only during break times. Once the camera started rolling again, he would not say anything.
During the shoot for Twilight Struggles, he saw Moonjoong in deep thought. He was probably contemplating how to solve the requests that the director had given him.
Just how many rolls of film had they gone through? Maru was there for only one day, but he was flabbergasted by the director when he took dozens of takes for one scene.
Joonggeun’s method was to help the actors reach an answer themselves. His method was only possible if he had the confidence to give no directions to the actors. However, fundamental trust towards those actors had to lie as the basis. If he was working with veteran actors, he would be able to create high-quality scenes in a short time, but if that wasn’t the case, he would have to throw out a lot of rolls of film. Despite the risks, Joonggeun provided the same opportunities to all the actors during the shoot. He waited and waited again.
“Smack down on the desk when you say ‘be quiet’. Like, in a strong tone. Think of it as though you’re trying to cover up everyone else’s voices on the microphone. Then you turn around, to the left.”
Joongjin limited the range of acting. He controlled every little action the actor had to do with his words and wanted them to act within his control. At first, Maru thought that he was going to give instructions to just the minor actors and the background actors, but he gave detailed instructions to all the actors that came inside the classroom.
“Wouldn’t it be better to turn right?”
Cha Taehoon, the lead actor for a child role, gave his opinion, but Joongjin refused in a soft, yet firm way that didn’t leave room for any negotiation.
No one talked back to him after realizing his intentions of meticulous control behind his soft-spoken words. While the explanations continued, though, another person came into the classroom. It was Miso.
“Then let’s get ready.”
Joongjin positioned each actor. The direction they were looking in, the angle of their arms, the shape of their mouth, etc. He told them every little detail as though he was teaching a child that did not know anything.
Maru saw the expressions of the child actors slowly starting to stiffen.
“We’re going to start the shoot like this. We’ll do a master shot once and then do a coverage of each part. Everyone, do the actions I told you to do. Even if you make a mistake, don’t stop. I’m the one making that decision.”
Joongjin left the class. A camera, which was installed on a dolly, which was then installed on rails, moved around the entrance of the classroom. Maru saw the camera director nodding towards Joongjin.
The staff with a slate clapped it in front of the camera. Following that, the director’s voice could be heard.
The camera slid into the classroom. It seemed to be getting an overall feel of the scene. Maru looked at the situation while in a sleeping position just as Joongjin had instructed him to. Everyone was doing the actions that the director told them to do. The camera on a dolly stopped in front of Park Gwangsoo, who sat in the front row.
Park Gwangsoo said the line he prepared in a strong manner. His character was the first of the class. Everyone in the class suddenly turned quiet. The expressions and actions as they became quiet were also instructed in detail by the director. There was no ‘improvisation’ where the camera was shooting. Everything was a scenery created by Park Joongjin. There was no individuality at all.
Despite that, Maru found this place limitlessly natural.
Directing was something artificial. Since a person was creating an imaginary story and giving directions according to that, it could only be artificial. However, in between two directions, there were the emotions of individuals as well as their acting. It was the mixture of contrivance and individuality that lessened the artificial nature and increased sympathy. No, Maru believed that to be true until he experienced this moment.
Joongjin’s direction of the classroom was fairly artificial. He limited all individual action so that there was nothing in between his directions. He created the space as though he was mass-producing things. Maru thought that the contradiction of this methodology would soon show up once they started shooting. Perfect order could only look mechanical. He predicted that the ‘human nature’ that people working in the industry looked for, would be absent and would create a stifling picture.
However, what actually happened was a picture of a classroom that had its traits despite being ordinary and above all – had no flaws. What if the kid chatting next to him looked just a little lower, and what if the guy whistling by the window whistled for just a little longer, and what if the drill uniform of the smiling guy sitting at the back was a little neater? Would it feel the same then?
He subconsciously sighed.
Eventually, they continued to the point where Gwangsoo hooked his arm around Bangjoo and laughed together. It was a long take. During this 3-minute shot, there was no NG signal. Taehoon smacked down on the desk. Then, a second round of silence pervaded the area. Everyone looked at Taehoon in the same instant. Every movement, down to their hands, was just as Joongjin had instructed them to do. Once the gaze was gathered on him, Taehoon kicked off his seat and walked towards the camera.
“Cut,” Joongjin spoke in a bright voice.
After entering the classroom, Joongjin walked amidst everyone and told every one of them what they did wrong. The ones that were pointed out widened their eyes in surprise. They seemed surprised that Joongjin noticed their minute mistakes at all.
“We’re doing that again. You just need to do as I told you to.”
While Joongjin took the lead actors and Miso outside the class, Maru straightened his back and sat up.
Bangjoo, who sat at the front, walked up to him.
“What is it?”
“Is shooting a movie supposed to be like this?”
“Is anything strange?”
“It is. It’s completely different from how I expected it to be.”
“What did you expect?”
“Acting out this and that, and then the director would tell people who’s wrong, who was good, and what they could do better. When they hit a block, we’d talk with other actors, and… anyway, I was expecting more of a hustle and bustle.”
“But it’s strange because it’s too quiet and calm?”
“Exactly. In Jackie Chan movies, they always show you the bloopers during the ending credits right? The staff and the director laugh together and sometimes they would glare at each other….”
Bangjoo made a complex expression.
“This is not acting, but…..”
Bangjoo frowned with one eye and licked his lips as though he couldn’t think of the right word. At that moment, Joongjin, Miso, and the lead actors came back. Bangjoo sighed to himself and went back to his seat.
“You just need to do what you did last time. The camera movement might change, but you don’t need to worry about it. Just do what you are supposed to do.”
Maru looked up at Joongjin who walked right next to him. Meeting eyes, Joongjin showed him the smile that he showed back in the restaurant.
Seeing him turning his back, Maru was reminded of a game of chess. That was probably what Bangjoo was looking for. This was a chessboard, the director was the player. Then what did that make the people here?
‘Chess pieces that can’t move by themselves.’
Was this a shooting location? Or was this a studio for one individual?
One thing Maru could be sure of was that Joongjin probably had a complete picture of the film in his head. The way of a genius. He now understood why Joongjin cast people based on body figures alone. The very shape of a human – just this couldn’t be changed at will, so Joongjin picked the right ones. Instead, he put everything else under his calculations. All the people gathered here became his tools, and tools could not speak. There was no need for tools to express their opinions. They just did whatever they are meant to do.
‘However, there are tools that can speak.’
Maru looked at the back door of the classroom. There was a woman who looked over the class with her sharp eyes while leaning against the door. Director Choi.
-Ah, if it’s you, director Choi, I don’t have any complaints.
The only person outside Joongjin’s frame. Joongjin, who treated everything that stepped into his space as a tool accepted her opinions.
She voiced her opinion as a person.
Maru wanted to be in such a position. Would Joongjin listen to someone if he knew that person for a long time? No. He didn’t seem like someone who would do that. In the end, the only method seemed to be getting his approval.
“Do just as I tell you. Then, let’s begin the shoot.”
Joongjin snapped his fingers as he left.
There was nothing he could do now. He could only fall flat on the desk and just observe everything around him. There was no way to go forward. In order to express himself differently, it required movement, but right now, the only thing he could do was to twitch his fingers, maybe. Perhaps Joongjin might catch even that and warn him: that there’s no need for acting.
While they took a coverage shot for each actor, there were no NGs. It was surprising. It had only been an hour since the shoot began, yet the classroom scene ended. What would eventually become a clip that was at least 2 minutes long, finished under an hour.
“Thank you for your work, and let’s continue after lunch. We’ll mostly be doing action scenes in the afternoon so you should eat a lot and save up some energy. Good luck everyone.”
Joongjin tried to cheer everyone up. However, the students inside the classroom had barely any energy. Everyone was aware that they were being treated the same as props.
The background actors were better off. Those people did not have any duty to do acting. They weren’t called here to do acting after all. Maru looked at Taehoon who was making a bitter expression as he bit his thumb. The ones that couldn’t stand it were the actors. Until now, that kid wasn’t able to ‘do’ anything. On the surface, he did acting, but it couldn’t be considered his own. An actor was told not to help other people improve their acting, but to imitate precise movements. It was an embarrassing thing.
Taehoon and Gwangsoo stared at director Joongjin as he left and immediately followed afterwards. Were they going to say something to him? Maru shook his head. This wasn’t the time to be worried about others.
“Let’s get some food for now.”
Maru tapped on Bangjoo’s shoulders since he was lying flat on the desk. He now knew his enemy. Know thy enemy and know thyself – now he had to realize what he had to do.
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Author's Note: Here’s a special segment to fulfill the reader’s expectations.
Maru in 5 years.
The Nonsan Army Recruit Camp could be seen from afar. Maru, who had cut his hair short, waved his hand as he walked forward. His shoulders were limp and his legs were slow. He wasn’t crying, and he looked more like he was tired than crying. Why? Just why would that be?
Walking ahead, Maru turned around and spoke.
“Enlisting twice. Twice in the military. The unknown is to be feared, and the known is to be horrified. Aah, here I go again.”
Maru looked very bitter as he walked forward while uttering incomprehensible things.
 This is where 30% of the army forces are sent to train to become soldiers.