An Interview with Microhabitat Director Jeon Go-woon
SIMON WARD (SW): What was your inspiration for Microhabitat?
JEON GO-WOON (JGW): I was inspired by the nonsensical structure of the scorching city of Seoul, where no matter how hard you try, you cannot have a ‘habitat’ to live in.
SW: Is Miso an optimistic or a pessimistic character?
JGW: I think that depends on the individual perspective of the viewer. I see Miso as a brave person who knows how to prioritise her own needs, whilst also valuing those around her. It is up to the audience to decide how they view this individual, someone who does not subscribe to a society where diversity and individuality are looked down upon – I hope my film will be one to provoke discussion regarding these issues.
SW: As the title of your film suggests, place or ‘home’ is very important in your film. What does it mean for Miso and also for you?
JGW: Home is an important place, where all living creatures can feel protected and find rest. Food, clothing, and shelter are the basic conditions for life, but there are many people who do not have access to these necessities and, due to this overwhelming insecurity, lose sight of their most basic values and principles, something that is deeply saddening. I, too, am just an ordinary person, and thus the thing I want the most is a home of my own, without having to worry about paying the rent each month.
SW: A major theme of the film is the struggle between idealism and pragmatism. Why do you think Miso, unlike her old friends, has managed to hold on to her idealism?
JGW: As I said earlier, Miso is a person who knows what she likes and is someone who lives according to her own standards, without being bound by what other people think. It appears that those around her consider Miso an idealist, who is living the kind of life they could never choose for themselves.
SW: You are the co-founder of an independent filmmaking co-operative. Is this an example of idealism or pragmatism?
JGW: It may be considered an example of both idealism and pragmatism, but the main thing is that we have fun, and find both strength and happiness in working together. I did not start off with any grand aspirations, and it just happened that along the way I ended up shooting four of my own films. We’ve been really fortunate to be able to work together and see each other grow and develop. Maybe this attitude itself is indeed reflected in Miso’s character.
SW: Looking at this year’s festival programme, Microhabitat seems to be at the vanguard of a wave of films emerging from Korean independent cinema both directed by women and critiquing materialism. Why do you think this is happening now?
JGW: As I am not familiar with this year’s programme, this is something difficult for me to explain, but I would imagine it could be because everyone’s habitat is unstable.
SW: What excites you most about filmmaking?
JGW: The thing that excites me the most is developing ideas with my coworkers, and from this working with the actors to form the character into something tangible and three-dimensional.
SW: How do you think Miso will be living ten years from now?
JGW: This film is about Seoul as it is in the present, almost like an interim report of my life as a woman. I have never thought about Miso’s future, and in fact I don’t think it’s necessary. Personally, I think she’ll stay healthy, and so continue as she has been, smoking a lot of cigarettes and drinking a lot of whisky.
This interview took place by email.