Life, Once Again! - Chapter 999
Chapter 999. Crank Up 9
“I’ve never shown the original edition to other people, but I wanted to show you this.”
Lee Junmin sat down at Park Joongjin’s gesture. It was three days ago that the director texted him to come to the studio in Seoul along with a greeting. It had been twenty years since they had known each other, but this was the first time he got a ‘greeting’ message from him. He realized that the deep gorge of emotions between them had become quite faint. The thick shadow of Jung Haejoo had finally become memories they could reminisce about instead of a taboo they could not mention.
Junmin looked at the tapes piled next to the monitor. There were numbers written on it in order.
“They’re beta tapes. Although we live in a world where even CDs are outdated and cloud storage is a thing, I feel like something’s missing without this thing.”
“I think I get what you mean.”
The man who introduced himself as the editing director left the scene. The one who grabbed the mouse was director Park.
“There’s still a long way to go for mixing and DI, but it won’t hinder us in watching the piece. No, perhaps it’ll be even better.”
Director Park clicked the mouse a few times. The closed door of the editing room opened and the editing director peeked in, saying that it was ready.
They left the editing room and entered a room to the right. It was a small screening room. There were fifteen chairs. Light from a projector was reflected on the screen. Junmin sat down on a chair. Director Park had a short conversation with the editing director before turning off the lights in the screening room. The white noise from the speaker tickled his ears.
“It won’t be long. Let’s go eat lunch after we watch it. There’s a good galbi-tang restaurant nearby.”
As soon as director Park’s words ended, the film began. Junmin could tell from the explanations he heard beforehand that the thick white snow was the background for the grand finale of the film. Junmin crossed his legs and focused on the film. As he had read the script beforehand, he knew what it was about. The film did not talk about some grand topic. It was entirely focused on a single individual. What he was about to see would not contain any great story or visually overwhelming special effects. It was the story of a man who lived a tragic life and an unworthy death after all.
Junmin was curious about what he would gain through this short screening. He knew the plot of the film, but there was an insurmountable gap between video and text. He wanted to know how this finale without any of the stories that came before, would intrigue him. If it wasn’t for the name Park Joongjin, he would’ve thought that it was not worth watching.
The crude noises of the scene flowed out through the speakers. This was natural since director Park said that the mixing wasn’t complete yet. The camera showed the snow for a while before a change occurred. There appeared a man walking towards the horizon drawn in a white line. He had heard that the shoot was in the mountains, and the location of the camera was nigh artistic. He imagined a sea of snow for a brief moment.
Maru, who entered the frame, slowly walked. The camera captured him from a constant distance away. His flank, which he was grabbing, was zoomed in on. Red blood oozed out between his fingers. It was a clear contrast between white and red. The camera changed the angle. It was now looking down at him from the sky. The path that Maru took became a long line, dividing the screen in half. With Maru as the center, the snow had melted above him, revealing the green and brown color unique to mountains, and below him was still completely covered in white. Junmin felt stifled for some reason when he looked at the white. It felt like a space of nothingness, nihility, and meaninglessness.
Maru’s tenacious, yet faint breathing sound, combined with the rustling of the snow at his feet and the snapping of what might be branches or frozen mud… all sorts of sounds filled the scene, yet it felt deadly silent. Just turning off all the sound might be less stifling.
Maru, who was walking across the screen, fell on top of the world of white. He fell over sideways, and the camera looked down at him from above, as though it was the point of view of an omnipotent god looking down at a dying human that was no different from an ant. The distance to the character did not shrink. At this point in time, the main character’s face would be zoomed up on, or the scene would change, but the camera kept looking down upon Maru from the top as though it had forgotten its duty.
At the time Maru fell over, Junmin subconsciously let out a shallow breath. He felt like unwashable air would ruin his lungs if he inhaled deeply. The camera, which was endlessly far away from the character and watching the character objectively, made the viewer instead shrink the psychological distance between themself and the character. It was an uncomfortable way of production. He frowned while watching. He started desperately longing for some dramatic change, whether it be sound or a change in scene. The discomfort changed into unease, and just as it was about to reach the stage of displeasure, it changed cuts.
Junmin was dragged by the screen without being able to deal with the emotions that reverberated around his chest before coming up to his mouth. It was precise timing. The change occurred just at the right time. He breathed heavily. A complex mixture of unease and displeasure that had not been sublimed into curse words swirled around his entire body. If this was what the director intended, director Park had to be called a genius after all. He was unsettlingly well aware of the psychology of the audience. If he was off by a single beat, he would have made the audience leave, yet it was strangely right on time. The vexation towards the piece instead increased the concentration. However, this was a perfect win for production skills. There was nothing the actor did to contribute to this. Director Park probably didn’t invite him here for this. While this was a worthwhile reason, director Park said that it was just the beginning.
The camera that looked like it was watching down on a human from the perspective of god now shot him from the same height. Maru’s wounds and suffering that he had forgotten about had rushed in all at once. Maru’s acting skills were added on top of the ominous ending foreshadowed visually. He was slowly breathing before his wavering eyes suddenly gleamed. Junmin couldn’t tell what he was heading towards, but Maru had not given up on life. The hand that clutched his wound, the eyes that looked beyond the world of white, and ultimately, his twisted lips showed his obsession for life better than any words could.
He slowly stood up. There was still not a single word from him, or even a groan for that matter. It was still only the sound of the wind and breathing that endlessly raised the tension just like in the first cut. He started walking forward, but his walking was unstable as though he lacked strength. His body swayed left and right, barely making any progress as he relied on the swaying motion to proceed forward. Junmin could tell that his life would be over the moment he stopped to take a breather.
The camera moved along with Maru’s footsteps. It stopped when Maru stopped, and it moved when Maru took a step. It showed that the world was revolving around him. What was he looking for with his wide-open pupils? Junmin knew the ending, but he suddenly couldn’t remember it. It felt like a waste of energy to use a part of his brain to remember it. He had to focus his entirety on the screen. The results would be shown to him not too long later anyway.
Junmin crossed his arms. The screening room was not cold. In fact, it was on the warmer side. However, his body instinctively curled up as though he was enraptured by what was given to him visually and aurally. Tension akin to the moment just before the appearance of a murderer kept rising as though it was taking slow steps. When would it trail off?
The Maru on the screen stopped for a moment. He buried his head in the ground and took a deep breath. When he raised his head, his eyes were filled with more tenacity than ever. Was his near-blind gaze expressing his desire for life? Or was it aimed at something else? In either case, he was saying with his entire body that he could not die here. He felt like he would keep walking even if all of the blood left his body. It felt like even death would not stop his body from moving forward. It was definitely like that.
The scene suddenly changed. A dog had fallen over on the snowy field. The camera reflected the dog for about three seconds. That animal did not have a shred of breath in it and was definitely dead. Then, there was suddenly the sound of something falling. The camera captured it. His eyes, now looking at the sky with his arms wide open, did not contain anything. Junmin felt like he was looking at a completely different person. No, a ‘person’ was the wrong word to describe it. It looked like some ’thing’ that was becoming human, or perhaps, something that was not supposed to, becoming human. Snow landed on top of his face. He and the white snow were now the same. Until moments ago, he was the main character capturing the eyes of the audience through the camera, but now he was no different from the white snow. Snow continued to pile, as though it was trying to erase the slight flaw in it.
The video stopped there. Junmin leaned back on the chair. He was unable to speak for a few minutes, nor did he want to. He only spoke when the video on the screen had completely turned off,
“When will the post-processing be finished?”
“I’m torn because there’s not really anything much to touch. I want to release it by the end of the year, but we’ll have to see what happens. Though, not that I can decide on the distribution date.”
“How many times did it take Maru to complete that scene?”
Director Park raised his index finger.
“One. Once was all he needed.”
Junmin chuckled in vain.
“Do you remember what he said after he shot that scene?”
“I do, very clearly, in fact. He said, ‘director, I think it’s done.’ Yes, it was just as he said. That was ‘done.’”
Junmin looked at director Park before standing up.
“I think I can see why you showed me this first. He’s completely different but he reminded me of Haejoo. If Haejoo’s acting can be described as multicolored light, that is an act that leaves behind nothing. To compare, there are zero similarities in every aspect, but I could see after looking at his eyes at the end. At the opposite extremes, they are surprisingly similar.”
“Mr. Maru is a curious and interesting actor. I can still remember what happened when we shot that scene. I was watching through the monitor, but then I stood up to see him for myself. He was there, but I could not see him. I requested Mr. Maru to put his own colors in the acting, and the result was this. Colorlessness is a form of color in some perspectives. He showed a slightly different lunacy than what I was originally thinking, but right now, I’m even thinking that that was instead a good thing. It was the greatest decision in my life to cast Mr. Maru as the main character.”
Lights were turned on in the screening room. The editing director came in and said that it was time for lunch. Junmin left the screening room, following director Park. He looked at the gray screen for one last time before the door closed. He could not erase the feeling that Maru still lingered there.
“I am looking forward to people’s responses.”
Director Park was overjoyed. Junmin agreed. There should be no middle point. It would either be extreme praise or extreme criticism waiting for the actor known as Han Maru. And Junmin intuitively felt that no critic would complain against the actor and the director after seeing that.