Directed by KIM Sang-man
By HAN Sunhee
Midnight FM ’s director KIM Sang-man is a man of many talents. Since 1997 he has designed more than 30 movie posters including I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and The Host , and worked as art director of Happy End and Joint Security Area/JSA . He was director for both art and music in Bloody Tie and directed his first feature film Girl Scout in 2008. A comic crime film about four women trying to get their money back, Girl Scout failed commercially but still proved KIM Sang-man’s exceptional instincts for genre films.
Midnight FM is another movie revealing the director’s interest in thriller genre. The main story revolves around a tense confrontation between a woman who hosts a live radio show and a listener who tries to threaten her. Seon-yeong (SuAe, The Sword with No Name) has been the host of a radio show that plays original soundtracks for the last 7 years.
When her daughter becomes sick, she decides to quit her job as a radio DJ. On her last day of the show, mysterious listener Dong-su (YOO Ji-tae, Old Boy) makes a sudden call and threatens to kill Seon-yeong’s daughter if she does not accomplish the mission he’s giving her. Not knowing who the man is, and why she has become the target Seon-yeong fights against Dong-su to save her family.
The film is a ‘real time thriller,’ as its running time almost coincides with the two hours of the live show when all things happen. Adding to that, like a video game the characters solve their missions level by level, elevating the tension of the story. “I saw how a musical material like ‘late night soundtrack salon’ radio show can be mixed together with thriller to create a new type of tension and speed.” said KIM Sang-man after he read the synopsis. “The calm atmosphere of a classic late night radio show is shattered by spinechilling events and I tried to make it so that the viewers can think about the relationship between the media and listeners over the amusement derived from genre.”
The film takes place mostly at the radio station and the apartment where Dong-su holds Seon-yeong’s family hostage. As the director has deep understandings in music and art, the film’s visual setup is worth keeping an eye on.
He summarizes that “the visual, sound effects of this film start from ‘collision’.” He differentiated colors, size and camera work of the two spaces, and created scenes where the two rotate endlessly, thus magnifying tension of the film as familiar soundtracks and thriller genre music create foreignness and collide.
Transformation of Su Ae and YOO Ji-tae is worth noticing too. Su Ae is an actress with a fine low-tone voice suiting her role of a late night radio DJ, and YOO Ji-tae had already played a cold villain in Old Boy , but hardcore thriller Midnight FM was a new challenge to both of them. Director KIM Sang-man says “Unlike her previous image of classical and graceful, she had perfectly expressed a character who’s sometimes cold-hearted and sometimes fierce. YOO Ji-tae had also created a new type of villain who goes through an explosion of emotions,” showing trust and satisfaction he has about the two. He stresses once again. “This movie has a structure that truthfully follows the rules of conventional genre films where speed and tension sweep up the entire film to the end. It will be much more interesting if we can rethink about the relations media and listeners construct within.”
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