In this interview series, Gabby Kere introduces some of the most talented members of the Bong-hive who channelled their passion and fandom for Parasite into artworks so pleasing to the eye that they demand space on your bedroom wall. Read the previous parts published on the Curzon Blog.
In 2019 Parasite became the first foreign language film ever to win the Oscar for best picture. This historic event pivoted the global interest towards Korean cinema in general. It seems like Parasite’s success finally accomplished what all those countless Korean masterpieces from recent years, like Snowpiercer or Burning could not: connected Korea to the rest of the world and united the visitors of mainstream cinemas with the fans of arthouse movies. „I think it is a positive opportunity to add diversity to Western people's movie choices.”
Jisu Choi is a super talented illustrator from Korea who feels the most inspired when she breaks out from the limitiations of her Seoul-based studio and travels the world for a whole month every year. Her meticulusly constructed artworks have the power to transport you to multidimentional places, spaces and landscapes, invite you to look around, and allow you to discover and totally get lost in them. I talked to Jisu about her architecture focused style and how Parasite’s worldwide success effected her home country and the artist community of Korea.
„Seoul is like a mass of time and space.” – she begins. „Many Seoulers love and hate Seoul at the same time. Too crowded, always fast and busy city. But on the one hand, it's a beautiful place with a mess in which many people's stories and memories have been compressed.” – This sense of tight places and compartmenalised lifestyle reflect on the majority of Choi’s artworks. The alternative poster art that she created for the design studio Plain Archive puts the story in an entirely new perspective.
If you were fan of director Bong Joon-ho’s masterfully structured physical spaces in the film you will adore Choi’s artwork. For the first glance it very much looks like a comic book style 3D blueprint of the Park family’s hilltop mansion, that in itself is an archicectural wonder. Looking at it as a whole the design gives the impression of an illustrated time capsule, a moment frozen in time, where every corner tells a story.
„The metaphor of space is the key word of the movie. It was interesting that the house used as a big stage had a lot of room for interpretation in various directions. I prefer movies that convey a lot of meaning through space and Mise-en-Scène.That's why I was very happy when I was able to do commercial work on Parasite.”
The design process started with the development of a few ideas. „At first, I suggested two to three major directions.” – Choi explains. „The design studio Plain Archive wanted to make active use of the stairs and I agreed.
„The first idea was to reinterpret the image of the Suiseki (landscape stone) and the motif of the stairs as an oriental graphic element. I wanted to create a design where the Suiseki's surface looks like a mountain with stairs, to make it look like an oriental stone mountain landscape. Through the mountains, I tried to express the town where the Kims live at the back and the Parks live at the front.”
The second pitch was an entirely different approach that was much closer to Jisu’s architecture inspired style. „The walls and stairs of the Park's house were exaggerated higher, highlighting the class and psychological gaps.”
Although there are no explicit indicators throughout the movie about which city these tragicomedic events take place exactly, director Bong insisted on the usage of some very evocative visual tools. As a Seoul based artist herself, Jisu has a lot of adventage in understanding, experiencing and also as an artist, capturing the essence of the gaping inequalities within the Korean society. The exclusive insights she reveils make her work all the more exciting to examine.
„In fact – she adds, painting an evocative picture – „if you go to a wealthy neighborhood in Seoul, the rich people's houses are surrounded by a tall wall that is not visible from the inside, like a fortress.” With this in mind Choi exaggerated the stairs to work both as the staircase leading up to the front door and the stairway down to the basement. She admits that initially she added a little detail on the first sketches that at the end didn’t make it to the final piece, because it would have been a clear spoiler.
„There were many concerns and discussions on this part” – she refers back to the placement of easter eggs on the BluRay cover. „I like movies, too, and I collect DVDs myself. From a fan's point of view, few people who haven't seen the movie don't really buy the Blu-ray, and it’s usually the people who did see the film end up getting the DVD or Bluray. So for this reason I thought it’ll be okay to include a sneaky hint about the secret basement on the design.”
After a series of discussions the studio decided that this detail has to be kept hidden from the audience, in respect to director Bong’s suggestion, that everyone should go to see the film „cold”, with as little previous knowledge as possible. „There were no absolute guidelines on what details should or should not be included.” – states Choi. „My own rule was that I didn’t want to make people angry by revealing too many spoiler. At the end the design studio Plain Archive and the French distributor The Jokers decided to go with Jisu’s second idea which was approved by director Bong Joon Ho himself as well."
When I ask Jisu about her opinion on the current movie poster trends she admits that although she does not have much experience on this field she concludes: „I always think that design is based on purpose. As a movie fan who does visual work, I would like to say that beautiful posters are the best thing, but the standards can only vary depending on the situation and purpose.”
Then I ask about her thoughts on Parasite’s success and she proudly states that director Bong’s achievements caused a wave of excitement in her home country. „I hope this is an opportunity for many people to become interested in various Korean movies, especially in the independent films that were also internationally praised and awarded.” – And she adds with a pinch of optimism: „I hope these achievements will be a big trend.”
Regardless wether you saw Parasite or not, let’s admit, Jisu Choi’s image has the power to hold your attention for longer than all the time you ever spent looking at other movie posters... combined.
Check out Jisu’s other captivating designs on her website www.jisuchoi.net and prepare to get lost in them.