Two men and a bassinet

Two men and a bassinet

Sang-hyeon, the owner of a not very prosperous laundromat, and Dong-soo, who is employed by the neighborhood church, traffic in newborns. Taking advantage of the said church’s “baby box” in which mothers deposit the baby they do not want or cannot take care of, Sang-hyeon steals certain infants while Dong-soo erases the incriminating video tapes. But one night, Moon So-young, one of these mothers, changes her mind. However, rather than denouncing them, the young woman decides to accompany the kidnappers to potential parents-clients. From this sordid subject emanates broker (VO s.-ta), a road movie surprisingly luminous by Hirokazu Kore-eda, which earned Song Kang-ho the Best Actor Award at Cannes. We spoke to them both exclusively.

“I learned about the existence of baby boxes in Japan while preparing the film Like father, like son [2014] “, explains, during an interview conducted this fall at TIFF, the director of Nobody knows (Nobody Knows), still walking and A family matter (Shoplifters), Palme d’Or in 2018.

“During the film’s presentation at the Busan Film Festival, I mentioned this well-established system and was told that there were even more baby boxes in South Korea. »

Hence this desire of the Japanese filmmaker to camp the action in South Korea. A happy corollary: he had there the ideal pretext to collaborate with Song Kang-ho, undoubtedly the greatest star there after successes like One Man’s Revenge (Sympathy for Mister Vengeance), The Host, Memories of Murder, Thirst, this is my blood and the multi-Oscar winner Parasite.

In fact, the talent and flair of Song Kang-ho immediately placed him at the heart of the revival of South Korean cinema, at the very beginning of the 2000s.

“At the time, I could not predict the extent that the movement would take, remembers the actor. But seeing the mix of brilliance and daring in films by then-emerging filmmakers like Park Chan-wook, Kim Jee-woon and Bong Joon-ho, I knew something new and exciting was happening. with South Korean cinema. Their films had the effect of electroshocks, repeatedly. »

Since then, his approach to the profession has hardly changed, assures Song Kang-ho.

“The question I’ve always asked myself before accepting a film, and the one that continues to guide me in my choices, is: ‘How are we going to tell this story?’ Generally speaking, I am attracted by original proposals, but I have nothing against a classic story: if the angle from which it is approached is new, or if it is a promising new voice telling it, I want to be. And then, with certain filmmakers, I know that the approach will be interesting. »

Knowing this, the attraction of broker was twofold, since to an “original proposal” was added the presence of Hirokazu Kore-eda, which certainly meant “an interesting approach”.

“I was an admirer of Hirokazu Kore-eda’s work long before broker, says Song Kang-ho. I consider him to be a master of sparseness: he manages to generate an incredible emotional response while having a very stripped down approach. So, reading the script, I was not disoriented in the least. »

Children first

For his part, the director says he had the actor in mind even before developing his plot.

“When I started writing the script in 2016, the first scene that came to mind was when Song Kang-ho, dressed as a fake priest, picks up a baby from the box, smiles at it and says “Let’s be happy together”. Then, the next day, he is seen selling the baby to a couple. At first, that was all I had. »

Soon the other characters appeared, like these two female detectives launched on the heels of the improbable trio. Trio which will join along the way Hae-jin, a little orphan who does as he pleases. In this regard, Hae-jin is part of a tradition, in the filmmaker, of child characters on the fringes.

“It’s true that I tend to portray children’s characters who have had their childhood stolen, and who, therefore, have nothing childish about them,” Hirokazu Kore-eda opines. Nobody Knows, A family matter… I believe it’s because the ills of society, those that concern me and that I deal with in my films, primarily affect children. »

As always with the filmmaker, the characters, whatever their age, are endowed with detailed psychological profiles and rich historical backgrounds. broker stands out, however, in the sense that Hirokazu Kore-eda this time takes the side of making the a priori lie.

“I make it a point of honor to write characters that are neither all black nor all white, but in shades of grey. This is the case here, with the difference that I wanted Sang-hyeon and Dong-soo to be associated first with the dark, criminal side, and the two detectives with the white side, with the law, and then reverse this perception. Because, in life, things are rarely as simple as they seem. »

“The beauty of these characters is that they are nothing extraordinary,” adds Song Kang-ho. They are people who try to be good, to do what is good, but who are caught up in so many pitfalls and inequities that “doing what is good” and “being good” becomes extremely difficult. . This is the reality for many people. »

Or when kindness is a luxury.

A bittersweet note

The result is a film that is alternately tragicomic, feel good and melancholic. broker is also wonderful in that it does not offer simple answers to the complex questions it poses. This bias is maintained throughout, hence this absolutely perfect bittersweet conclusion.

“When I started shooting the film, the end was not written, reveals Hirokazu Kore-eda. I discussed it a lot with the cast. I knew, however, that I didn’t want Moon So-young to be remorseful and get her baby back, and live happily ever after. Other than that it would have been dishonest, I didn’t want to limit the family theme to blood ties. »

Besides, broker wants to be, by this last reason, a companion of the previous one A family matterwhere a family of petty thieves takes in an abandoned little girl. broker however, marked Hirokazu Kore-eda even more deeply:

“During my research, I returned to South Korea and came into contact with adults who grew up in homes like the one visited in the film. What they told me will stay with me forever. »

Several of these adults told him that they wondered if their birth would have been “a good thing or a bad thing”.

“After being abandoned in baby boxes, they were moved to foster homes, they never knew their real mother… And to this day they wonder if they caused their mother any pain by coming in the world. This film, and I am aware that it alone will not solve the problem it exposes, is my response to what these grown-up children have told me”, concludes Hirokazu Kore-eda.

The film broker hits theaters January 13.

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