Lee Ha Jun
We designed the whole house in the reverse order of a normal architect’s procedure. We first designed the inside of the house to accommodate the movement of the actors. And then we planned the outside using many domestic and international architecture references. However, we had to link the inside and outside since we didn’t shoot the inside and outside separately. We had to build a whole house. Director Bong and my team gathered many reference images to be able to incorporate his ideas into the rich house. It had to be minimal, flawless, big, and straight rather than being cozy. It had to contrast with the poor semi-basement neighborhood, with moderated color, materials, and designer-made furniture. We needed a big living room with a window that had a panoramic view of their huge garden. We also made the glass window dimensions the same as the camera’s aspect ratio, 2.35:1. It is a house designed only for a film shoot. I tried my best to design as minimally as I could by using specific colors and materials because the most important element of Park’s house is the garden, rather than the exterior architecture or interior. We actually built the set outside [and not on a stage] so we could incorporate the garden.
Director Bong once mentioned that the fictional architect in the film, Namgoong Hyeonja, built the living room on the first floor to be able to appreciate the garden. That was Namgoong Hyeonja‘s philosophy. Therefore there is no TV in the Park’s living room. We wanted the audience to see the living room and the garden as one unified artistic composition, like a fine art painting or photograph. To emphasize the contrast of the inside and outside, I used dark wood and materials with a gray tone for the interior.
AS: How did you initially meet director Bong Joon Ho?
LHJ: There was film titled Haemoo (Sea Fog), that he produced. I was the production designer of the film and that was the first time I met him. When we were having dinner together during the production of Haemoo, Bong told me the basic synopsis of Parasite. After that, we worked together first on Okja and then on Parasite.
AS: How is working with Bong Joon Ho different from other directors?
LHJ: Director Bong always explains all the details to us. Sometimes we have to guess the parts that are not explained and while this is hard, I’m never worried because the whole process always yields amazing results. Assuming that I tend to use 98% of my ability when I work, director Bong always encourages me to use the last 2% and he drags that 2% out of me very well! It feels like he knows everything. I guess that’s his skill. He always communicates with his crew, often texting and sending great reference images. He’s like a highly skilled captain of an enormous ship. He knows how to compromise when dealing with what’s possible and what’s impossible. He deals with the variables very well. Most of all, he doesn’t shout at all on set. He’s very much the ideal director.
And his script is very detailed as well. Everything he wants to express, all the underlying meanings, are in the text of the script. The ingredients are very important when cooking, right? Director Bong cultivates the ingredients in his world very well. We just take those ingredients and cook them with nice tools, great decoration and a great chef. I hope to continue working with him for long time.