Decision To Leave Cinematographer Breaks Down 6 Scenes From The Movie

In talking about a film centered around unresolved mysteries, Decision To Leave cinematographer Kim Ji-yong reveals himself to be equally inclined to keep his secrets. “I think when you analyse something, you lose what’s beautiful about it,” he says over a Zoom call. “When you watch the movie and feel it, that’s one thing. But when you say it out loud, it seems too simple.”

Directed by Park Chan-wook, Decision To Leave is precisely the kind of morally thorny film he’s become known for over the years. It follows detective Hae-jun (Park Hae-il), assigned to investigate the probable murder of a retired immigration worker, only to gradually discover that he’s falling for his lead suspect, the late man’s wife Seo-rae (Tang Wei). Nothing is as it seems in the film, beginning with Seo-rae’s wallpaper, which alternately looks like either mountains or waves, depending on the lighting (both motifs are central to the film). Given the illicit nature of Hae-jun and Seo-rae’s romance, and the distance they must publicly maintain, they’re framed through window panes and binoculars, seen through screens and reflected in mirrors. The film also plays with time and space, compressing timelines and allowing locations to overlap.

Storyboarding the film took two months, says Kim, who previously shot Korean films such as The Fortress (2017) and Swing Kids (2018) and has worked in the camera department of Parasite (2019) and Okja (2017). “Park and I talked a lot about the visuals and what the film would look like. We talked about two things mostly — being classical and old-fashioned. But there’s no film lab in Korea anymore so it was impossible to shoot on film,” he adds. In the end, the two tried to figure out what aspects of shooting on film they loved and then transposed those ideas onto digital.

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