Life, Once Again! - Chapter 958
He had gotten so used to the air in the shed that it was to the point that he couldn’t even feel the damp air anymore. The same went for the piercing foul stench as well as the damp smell coming from the moist ground. Maru took off his hood. He could see the scenery outside the shed behind the fatigued face of the staff member standing next to the lights. The lights of central Ulsan were very vivid as though he could reach it if he reached his hand out. Although the mountain couldn’t be considered geographically isolated, he had to become a person locked up on an uninhabited island once he entered the shoot. Though, locked up wasn’t entirely a suitable word since the character voluntarily locks up his inner world from the outside.
He stroked down his face with his hand still covered in dirt. His entire body felt tired. If he was given the order to sleep, he might as well fall over on the spot and go to the land of dreams.
“Director, I’ll take a walk.”
Director Park also seemed to have noticed that a break was necessary and told the staff to take a rest. Maru put on his beanie and left the dog shed. It was 2:19 a.m. He put his phone in his bag and entered a dark mountain path away from the piercing lights of the city. He warmed his hands with the breath that seeped out of his mouth. The weather was cold enough for someone to freeze to death. Although the mountain wasn’t tall, the paths were rough so it wouldn’t be strange to find one or two people frozen to death after getting drunk the night before.
He sat down in front of a tree stripped of all leaves. In front of him was an abandoned grave. There was grass everywhere and some of the ground had caved in, so it was hard to realize that it was a grave without looking closely.
Maru had a close look at the grave. The ‘Gukji’ character that he was acting was akin to an abandoned grave on a remote mountain; a grave that no one visits, that no one remembers, that no one cares about. He might look like he went around without aim, but he always stayed in the same space that was the dog shed. To him, the dog shed was a cradle and also a grave. That didn’t mean that he had any affection towards the dog shed or any special feelings for the dogs. Although he was bound to a psychological and physical space, Gukji did not possess any elements of a person that was restrained to one place. That facet was what made the character known as Gukji quite simple yet difficult to act.
After the second half of the story, Gukji would encounter conflicts and be forced to make a change, but until then, Maru had to express a colorless, odorless character. However, that didn’t mean that director Park wanted a dry, characterless act. Maru did not plan to express the character like that either. He even thought back to the dilemma of acting: having to be dynamic yet static. Just looking at the characteristics, he was in a situation where he had to express a special character in a not special way. He had to grab the attention of the audience by plainly showing the character itself, but it was definitely not easy.
Maru opened the script that he brought. The script was delivered to him just before it was decided that he was to go to Ulsan. Even dramas that give their script at the last possible second give the script for the first and second episodes a month prior to the first shoot. Only after spending a lot of time analyzing the characters would an actor come up with countermeasures to last-minute scripts, but director Park skipped that step entirely. It seemed like he wanted to create a film on live TV.
Maru flipped back and forth through the script and had a look at the lines and directions. As he lacked the time to consolidate the character, it was ‘Han Maru’ that filled the gaps. He unintentionally brought out his habits and speech tones while acting. As this was no situation to make an excuse that he lacked the time, he had to make use of whatever time he had to think about it, in order to design a character that wasn’t riddled with holes.
“Apparently, it might start snowing by Christmas.”
It was director Park Joongjin. Maru stood up.
“I’m glad that there’s no scene where I have to roll around in dirt and snow.”
“If you want, then I can add one for you.”
“I just said I’m glad that there wasn’t any.”
Joongjin looked around before sitting down on the grave.
“That’s a grave you’re sitting on.”
“I know. The person inside must have withered to nothingness, so don’t worry and just sit down.”
Maru sat down in front of the grave. As he was aware of the existence of god, he could not desecrate a place where the dead were buried. Who knows? The owner of that grave might have been acknowledged for his good deeds and have become a god that overlooks the underworld.
“You’re doing well,” said director Park.
While it was some consolation, it did not give him any energy. He still could not find any clues for his acting.
“You must have thought at least once about why this lunatic director put you in a hard spot by giving you the script just before the shoot, right?”
“More than once, really. I’ve been thinking about something similar just before you came around. As for cursing you for being crazy, that was three days ago.”
Director Park’s laughter broke the tranquility of the forest.
“You’re doing much better than I anticipated. Actually, I was prepared to throw away about half a month of time. I estimated that it would take about that long for your nature to be reflected in the character. But actually, you were quicker than I expected. You were very precise and yet quick, just like you were editing on a computer. Looking at you in detail, it looks like you can turn emotions into blocks and insert and extricate them as you wish. Normally, people would have a hard time doing that.”
“I guess I’m closer to being mechanical than being human. Also, are you saying that you gave me the script late because you expected this to happen?”
“Of course. I told you during the indie film festival, did I not? You had the eyes I wanted. Even if you spent enough time consolidating the foundations of the character, I’m sure I would’ve been satisfied with it. You have exceptional talent when it comes to adding details to a character. However, I decided to be a little more greedy. Let’s take the character you were playing in the indie film as an example. How much of the human nature of the person known as Han Maru do you think was in that character?”
“Well, I haven’t really thought about that.”
“Don’t think too deeply and just give me an answer.”
“I believe there was more than half. Ultimately, it is me who turns it into acting. No matter how much I try to objectify and isolate the character, the process of objectification itself contains my own subjective actions, so there must be more than half of my nature in it.”
Director Park, who he thought would give his own answer, stayed quiet and looked down at the ground. He was looking with so much focus that Maru shifted his gaze as well. A tree root was protruding out. It had penetrated the grave. There was no tree around no matter how he looked, so he wondered where the root came from.
“The way I see it, there was less than half, or perhaps even less than a quarter. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. There’s no better quality for an actor than that. Who would say no to an actor who can perfectly play a necessary role at the required time? However, I thought that I wanted to see just Han Maru rather than the Gukji played by Han Maru. I had a look at all the pieces you’ve participated in until now. It was pretty interesting, to say the least. For an actor, they are bound to have an identity whether they like it or not. Even if they play a role that’s placed far away from their nature, that actor’s qualities are bound to be drawn out in their acting. They have a trait that they can’t erase no matter how much they try to, but for you, Mr. Maru, the presence of Han Maru was very faint throughout all the characters you played. The student drama, the short skit, the film, and even your latest mini-series. You played many roles that were very impressive, but rather than the actor known as Han Maru becoming well-known, your characters became more of an issue instead, no? People in the industry might look for you since they need to find useful people, but to the audience, the person known as Han Maru might not have left much of an impression. Though, of course, it is people like you who gain many die-hard fans.”
“Are you saying that my presence is faint?”
“Usefully faint, in fact. It’s only a matter of time until people recognize you anyway, so I’m not saying that there’s a problem.”
“That puts me at ease. I can’t afford to play sidekicks all my life.”
Director Park pointed at the root that protruded out of the ground.
“To use grave mounds as an analogy, your acting is like a perfect, polished grave, unlike this one. Your precision is something to marvel at. However, the acting I want from you this time is like this grave. A grave where roots are protruding out, an unpolished grave.”
“It’s quite weird to be compared to a grave.”
“I just happened to see it.”
Director Park stood up after dusting his pants.
“I want to see not you becoming a third person and watching over your own acting, but you dive into the acting yourself. It’s fine even if that doesn’t fit you. I believe that you’ll adapt to it quickly and do extremely well.”
“Can I ask why you’re so confident in me? This shoot might get dragged out endlessly. I might ruin it too.”
This wasn’t a film director Park was doing simply as a hobby. Many people who were expensive to hire were participating in this project. Maru was curious about director Park’s reason for having limitless trust in an actor when even now, as they were talking, money was being spent.
“Will you understand it if I say that it’s the same reason why president Lee Junmin pulled you under his wing?”
“I haven’t heard it from the person himself, but seeing you convinced me. You are similar to that person. Your method of acting is definitely different, but some inexplicable element reminds me of her.”
“Are you perhaps talking about Miss Jung Haejoo?”
“Yes. The perfect actress that I desired the most, as well as an actress that gave me endless disappointment because I was unable to do so. You are similar to her; especially in how there’s a strange amount of experience contained in your acting. It is like you two have lived a completely different era from me as actors, no, as a human beings. She was perfect like she had been acting for an unimaginable period of time.”
Director Park walked off, saying that they should return. Maru looked at the protruding root before turning around. Like she had been acting for an unimaginable period of time — an inextinguishable resonance blossomed from that line.