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[Herald Interview] Oh Ji-ho, director discuss fantasy-thriller ‘The Nightmare’

“The Nightmare” (Storm Pictures Korea)
“The Nightmare” (Storm Pictures Korea)

Actor Oh Ji-ho said he accepted the offer to star in the fantasy-thriller “The Nightmare” because he wanted answers to the many questions that popped into his head as he read the script.

“It’s difficult to put it into words, but I was grasped by a mysterious and incomprehensible feeling,” Oh said Wednesday in an email interview conducted ahead of the film’s release on Thursday.

“The Nightmare” is a mystery-thriller packed with fantastical elements that will leave the audience feeling as if they were going through the same nightmare as the movie’s characters.

Oh plays film director Yeon-woo, who becomes delusional after losing his beloved daughter Yerim in a car accident. Unable to overcome the sorrow, Yeon-woo makes a film about his daughter and writes her resurrection into the story. His life turns into a nightmare as Yeon-woo is unable to distinguish between dreams and reality.

Actor Oh Ji-ho (Storm Pictures Korea)
Actor Oh Ji-ho (Storm Pictures Korea)

“The scene where Yeon-woo goes into his daughter’s room after her death and cries holding the child’s clothes left a lasting emotion. The scene was the most painful and sad to act,” Oh said.

“I hope the film presents various feelings to the audience unlike a typical thriller genre. It’s not a very straightforward film so there are difficult parts to understand. I’m hoping questions about the film will linger with the audience even after the film ends.”

Director Song Jeong-woo says the audience will also experience confusion between reality and dreams as they follow Yeon-woo.

“I started the film from the idea that, maybe this place that we are living in right now could be the dream and we might be inside a nightmare of pain and madness that we can’t wake up from,” Song said in the email interview.

The director intended for his upcoming film to be like a surrealist artwork. 

Director Song Jeong-woo (Storm Pictures Korea)
Director Song Jeong-woo (Storm Pictures Korea)

“Whereas past thriller flicks expanded the feeling of horror through a structured story and cinematic installments, ‘The Nightmare’ is the opposite. It lacks a concrete structure and throws pieces of cinematic images and the feeling of fear to the audience without providing any background. I wanted the audience to feel their own unique horror as they put the pieces together.”

Song says he tried hard to maintain his initial inspiration throughout the film’s production.

“I often changed the script on the spot just before going in to shoot and this may have put some pressure on the actors. I wanted to make the film according to the first feeling that I had.”

The film had its world premiere in 2018 at the 36th Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival.

“The open mindset of the Brussels people became a source of beautiful inspiration for me. When I discussed surrealistic cinema with the audience there, I felt they were not limited by any rules,” Song said.

By Choi Ji-won (