Horror-thriller animated film "Beauty Water," directed by Cho Kyung-hun, is adapted from a popular webcomic "Tales of the Unusual" by cartoonist Oh Seong-dae.
It revolves around a girl named Ye-ji who comes across mysterious water that enables her to lose weight and reshape her appearance. She finds her life is more in danger the more she desires to be beautiful.
While keeping the original webcomic's eccentric world view, the film adds to the story with dynamic movements and vivid drawings.
The work lampoons the absurdity of modern society's obsession with appearance through the protagonist, who is swayed by the beauty standards that end up destroying her.
Making its world premiere at the 24th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, the film was invited to 12 international film festivals so far, including Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France, Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada and Sitges Film Festival in Spain. It also sold distribution rights to five countries/regions already ― Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
Producer Jeon Byung-jin, who oversaw the marketing and distribution of "Beauty Water," explained that it took about six years to complete the project.
"After a series of failed attempts to raise money from local and foreign investors, we received funding from Seoul Business Agency's Seoul Animation Center and the Korean Film Council. It was a difficult process due to a lack of commercially successful local cases," Jeon said during an interview with The Korea Times, Tuesday. "We've also invested our own money into it."
Despite the difficult working constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeon and Cho said they are thrilled to be presenting their long-awaited film.
Below is an excerpt of The Korea Times interview with producer Jeon and director Cho and on their six-year journey to make "Beauty Water."
Q. What sparked the initial idea behind "Beauty Water?"
Jeon: The project started in 2013 when Korean contents, including webcomics, were popular among Chinese consumers. Back then, we heard about the rising demand for animations in China and wanted to take advantage of that situation. We noticed that the two most popular genres are sex comedy and horror thriller. We decided to go with the latter one because we thought the horror thriller genre can appeal to subculture fans in other countries as well.
Cho: "Beauty Water" is just one part of Oh Seong-dae's omnibus-style webcomic. We made a contract with cartoonist Oh so that we could choose from 10 different webcomic episodes. When we were in talks about acquiring the webcomic's intellectual property (IP), "Beauty Water" became a hit in China. So we were naturally drawn to that story. However, Korea-China relations turned soured after the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, and we couldn't get any investments from Chinese companies.
Q. What were the challenges of adapting the webcomic into a movie?
Cho: In the film, the pictures need to be in constant motion. It was difficult to maintain cinematic continuity and intertwine several plots into one main story. While the original webcomic centers on the eccentric concept of "beauty water," the film focuses more on the protagonist's personality and her relationship with other characters. We intentionally added scenes where Ye-ji is savagely mocked for her appearance so that the audience can somehow understand why she becomes obsessed with "beauty water."
Q. What message did you want to convey through the film?
Cho: We wanted to portray how we all want to be loved for who we are. Both in the film and in reality, we tend to judge ourselves based on others' perceptions. I don't think that's a problem, because humans are visual creatures. Looks matter, but there is a dark side to being beautiful too. Even when Ye-ji becomes beautiful, she has to withstand too-long-held glances, which I think is another form of violence. Whether beautiful or not, we cannot escape the vicious cycle of lookism.
Q. What makes Korean animation unique? What are your thoughts on Korean animation's future?
Jeon: I think Korean animation and film fans like realistic settings. Japanese anime, on the other hand, is often times targeted at obsessive anime fans and is far from the popular sentiment. They've lost universal elements of drama. If we pick up that sentiment we'll be able to garner more popularity in the future. Korean webcomic intellectual property is gaining momentum these days, but people still think local animation doesn't sell. Commercially, it may be a bit of an experiment, but I want to give it a shot and make this industry a little more flexible.
Cho: It sounds cliche, but protagonists "struggle" in Korean films. It doesn't matter whether they overcome their hardships or experience a downfall afterwards. What's important is to convey the struggle in a persuasive and humorous way.
Q. "Beauty Water" has been invited to many international film festivals. What was their reaction to the film? Is there anything you'd like to say to the foreign audience?
Jeon: I remember talking to a foreign programmer, and she told me about the most captivating scenes from the film. They perfectly matched our intentions where we wanted to leave the most significant impact on the audience.
Cho: I think local fans understand this film as a "gender issue" type of film, whereas a foreign audience could take a humanistic approach. Also, there are scenes that our local audience may find disturbing, but foreign audiences really liked.
source: EonTalk & The Korea Times