Recalled is a film about memories, how torturous memories can be and yet how lost people are without them. In the film actress Seo Yea-ji plays Soo Jin, a woman who wakes up in a hospital without any memory of how she got there. Her only link to her previous life is Ji-hoon, played by Kim Kang-woo, a man who really seems to care for her. As the story progresses, he helps her to remember the past, but only what he wants her to remember. So, even the memories she recovers might be suspect.
Directed by Seo You-min, the film delves into the reliability of memories and their ability to shape how people see their lives and priorities. Seo was prompted to explore the power of memories by the hold they once had on her own life.
“There was a time when I was obsessed with the past,” said Seo. “I let the scars from the past hurt me by constantly pulling them out, but as I kept sticking to my memories, I neglected my present feelings. After realizing how bad that is, I began to think about what memory is, how we should treat it, and how to move forward past it.”
The character Soo Jin cannot move forward in her life without remembering what happened to her. Every time she starts to solve the puzzle of her past, another revelation casts doubt on her assumptions. The uncertainty makes for a tense storyline.
“From the script, my biggest goal was to confuse Soo Jin and the audience about what the truth is,” said Seo. “Once the case seemed to resolve, I gave another puzzle to bring the curiosity back. That way, I aimed to keep the tension in the film. That is the reason why I put a lot of effort into the script. In post-production, I focused on the rhythm of editing and the effect of music and sound for tension.”
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If the film’s edge-of-the-seat uncertainty reminds viewers of Hitchcock’s film Vertigo or Roman Polanski’s film Rosemary’s Baby, that’s not surprising.
“I was influenced and inspired a lot by Hitchcock,” said Seo. “Ever since I was a film student, I loved Hitchcock’s films and Recalled was heavily influenced by his works such as Vertigo, Psycho and Rear Window. I also enjoyed Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby a lot. I did my best to give that level of tension with Recalled, but I am curious how the audience felt about it. Other than that, I liked What Lies Beneath, directed by Robert Zemeckis, so I tried to give that kind of fun to the audience.”
Seo finds inspiration in various sources, yet it can take months or years for inspiration to crystallize into a finished script.
“To get inspiration, I diligently watch and interact with a wide variety of works of art, popular culture, and news,” said Seo. “That way, I get inspiration sometimes from a line of a newspaper article or even from a passage in a novel. Recalled is a story inspired by what I felt about relationships.”
Recalled is Seo’s directorial debut. She worked as an assistant director with director Hur Jin Ho on the 2005 film April Snow and she also wrote the script. She was the screenwriter for the films Happiness, You Call it Passion, and The Last Princess. The transition to directing was a positive one.
“After working as an assistant director, I was a screenwriter for a while,” said Seo. “Screenwriters spend most of their time on their own, so it’s comfortable and at the same time lonely. But as a director, I enjoyed building the project together with the crew by constantly communicating with them. Sometimes I was touched by the passion of the crew and sometimes I was amazed by how the script I wrote alone was performed through the actor. It is difficult to see the actual scene being made when you’re only a writer, but this time I was blessed to create each scene by myself as a director.”
While Seo spent considerable time with the cast before filming, their performances required little intervention during the actual shooting.
“Before shooting, I try to meet the actors as often as possible to agree on the emotional silhouette of the characters,” said Seo. “And during shooting, I first check what the actors have prepared through rehearsal and share my thoughts. If the performance by the actor is too far from what was in my mind, I explain more in detail, but that was rarely the case. Most of the time what the actors brought was more than satisfying, and I’d only need to ask for little more detail.”
Seo is already working on her next project, a Korean retelling of the 2007 Taiwanese film Secret, a film about time travel that also plays with the subject of memories. The film will star actor and EXO member D.O. in the lead role. Seo was such a big fan of the original film that she even visited the shooting locations in Taiwan.
“I was worried if I could make a film that can exceed the expectations of the original fans, but the ambition to retell this beautiful story with my own colors was too big to ignore,” she said. “That’s how I decided to challenge myself with courage. I am currently working on a screenplay that can be fresh to the audience nowadays while still conveying the impressions that the original had. I will make sure to come back again with a satisfying piece.”