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‘Taxi Driver’ ponders painful uprising through everyman’s perspective

  • Published : Jul 11, 2017 - 18:28
  • Updated : Jul 11, 2017 - 18:28

Song Kang-ho stars in “A Taxi Driver.” (Showbox)
The upcoming historical drama “A Taxi Driver” doesn’t want to wallow in the pain of the 1980s Gwangju Democratic Movement, when hundreds of civilians died while protesting the authoritarian military regime.

“It’s about the hope of people who did not let go, who strived to go on with life amid the pain,” said actor Song Kang-ho after the film’s press screening in Samseong-dong, Seoul, Monday.

Song, who starred in “Age of Shadows” (2016), plays the focal character Man-seob, a middle-aged taxi driver and widower raising a daughter on his own. He is the everyman, who possesses no particular insight on the country’s political climate and only struggles to make a living, according to director Jang Hoon.

By chance, Man-seob drives German journalist Peter from Seoul to Gwangju, where he comes to witness the atrocities that take place there. The journalist is played by German actor Thomas Kretschmann, who starred “The Pianist” (2002).

Peter is based on the late German journalist Jurgen Hinzpeter, who reported on the mass uprising in Gwangju and contributed to informing the global audience on Korea’s turbulent society at the time.

From left: Director Jang Hoon and actors Ryu Jun-yeol, Song Kang-ho and Yoo Hae-jin speak to reporters after the press screening of “A Taxi Driver” at the Megabox Coex theater in Samseong-dong, Seoul, Monday. (Yonhap)
An interview clip featuring Hinzpeter, who met with the film’s creators before his death in 2016, is included at the film’s end.

Jang said he began to conceive the film after watching journalist Hinzpeter give a speech after receiving an award for journalism in Korea in 2003.

“In his acceptance speech, (Hinzpeter) mentioned that he wanted to meet the taxi driver who drove him to Gwangju,” said Jang.

“I then created the character through testimonies given by Hinzpeter himself and by Gwangju citizens,” said Jang.

The film is told from the perspective of Man-seob. It traces his psychological evolution as he witnesses Gwangju’s citizens, largely comprised of passionate university students, contained in the city and violently suppressed by the military.

Meanwhile, hit songs of the time such as Cho Yong-pil’s “Short Hair” fill the background. A mix of computer graphics and a carefully built film set bearing 1980s-style buildings recreate the time period.

“A detailed and accurate portrayal of the historical reality of Gwangju was necessary to follow (Man-seob’s) emotional journey,” said Jang.

The 137-minute film, distributed by Showbox, opens in local theaters on Aug. 2. It also stars Ryu Jun-yeol and Yoo Hae-jin.

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)