← Part of the Issue: Hong Sang-soo

My Key Dates


25 October 1960. Born in Seoul. You’ve got to start somewhere.

1968. Elementary school in Seoul. My father and mother separate. The end of normal family life; it broke my heart.

1975. At college. I learn to drink and smoke. The desire to run from what’s inside me gets worse every day.

1979. The assassination of President Park Chung-hee. He had taken power when I was born and lost it when I entered adulthood. They’re important dates for me and for Korea. He transformed social and political life, but my personal life is as devastated as before. I drink more and more. I strongly feel the temptation of emptiness and nothingness. I enter Chungang University in Seoul, where I try to study film.

1982. I leave for the United States, first to the College of Arts and Crafts in California, then to the Art Institute in Chicago. The opportunity to start a new, healthier life. I recover my health somewhat. This long stay in America is less important for my film studies than for the recovery of a moral hygiene.

1985. Back to Seoul to get married. I put a sort of protection in place, against the outside world, against the temptations, the degeneration of life. Ever since, I have been living the life of a married man, and I make sure to stay well-balanced so that my wife supports me. 

1987. Back to Chicago. During a seminar at the Art Institute, I see Robert Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest. A turning point. I give up experimental video-art cinema and move on to storytelling. That is when I understand that classic cinema can bring happiness.

1989. Before definitively coming back to Seoul, I spend a couple of months in Paris, at the Cinémathèque française. An orgy of films. 

1992. I have a daughter. She’s the person I think about more than anyone in the world.

1996. My first feature film, The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well. Before that, I knew a few dozen people; after that, I met a few hundred people. This film is still very strange and foreign to me, perhaps because of my feelings while shooting it. I was very unhappy, and this film has never been familiar to me. I will have to watch it again to win it over and place it in my life. But it allows me to travel a lot, to festivals, Vancouver, Rotterdam, Paris, Locarno... And also to continue making films. 

1998. The Power of Kangwon Province. An impression of lightness, clarity, something original.

2000. Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors. A beautiful, sweet film. The most pleasant one to shoot. 

2002. Turning Gate. I’m left with a strong impression of warmth. 

2004. Woman Is the Future of Man. My favourite film so far. And I believe I will be able to continue loving it. 

2005. Tale of Cinema. It’s a little early to talk about it, but it’s the film I shot the fastest, with a lot of energy and efficiency. I don’t like to rewatch my films, but I know I will one day.

Hong Sang-soo in 2005

Originally published as “Mes dates clés” in Libération, 2 November 2005.


Thanks to Julien Gester and Bénédicte Dumont

In Passage, Sabzian invites film critics, authors, filmmakers and spectators to send a text or fragment on cinema that left a lasting impression.
Pour Passage, Sabzian demande à des critiques de cinéma, auteurs, cinéastes et spectateurs un texte ou un fragment qui les a marqués.
In Passage vraagt Sabzian filmcritici, auteurs, filmmakers en toeschouwers naar een tekst of een fragment dat ooit een blijvende indruk op hen achterliet.
The Prisma section is a series of short reflections on cinema. A Prisma always has the same length – exactly 2000 characters – and is accompanied by one image. It is a short-distance exercise, a miniature text in which one detail or element is refracted into the spectrum of a larger idea or observation.
La rubrique Prisma est une série de courtes réflexions sur le cinéma. Tous les Prisma ont la même longueur – exactement 2000 caractères – et sont accompagnés d'une seule image. Exercices à courte distance, les Prisma consistent en un texte miniature dans lequel un détail ou élément se détache du spectre d'une penséée ou observation plus large.
De Prisma-rubriek is een reeks korte reflecties over cinema. Een Prisma heeft altijd dezelfde lengte – precies 2000 tekens – en wordt begeleid door één beeld. Een Prisma is een oefening op de korte afstand, een miniatuurtekst waarin één detail of element in het spectrum van een grotere gedachte of observatie breekt.