Decision to Leave Director Park Chan-wook on Unique Approach to Score
Park Chan-wook courtesy of Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Park Chan-wook says that while working with composer Jo Yeong-wook to find the right score for his new movie Decision to Leave (Heojil kyolshim), they had to completely abandon the method they’ve used on past films like Lady Vengeance and Oldboy and start from scratch.

“The composer, Jo Yeong-wook, is my best friend who has worked together with me since the film JSA [Joint Security Area] that was released in 2000,” Chan-wook said via an interpreter during a Q&A at a Santa Barbara International Film Festival Cinema Society event.

“He also lives right next to me,” Chan-wook added, getting a laugh from the audience. “That’s why we know so much about each other’s tastes.”

But while coming up with initial ideas for the Decision to Leave score, Chan-wook and Yeong-wook couldn’t seem to agreed on anything.

“On this movie, we had a difficult process. He made 100 or sample songs with his computer for me to listen to and I didn’t quite like any of them. And he also agreed that none of this seemed to go with the movie. So for months, we were lost,” Chan-wook said.

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“We finally figured out the answer, which is that we’ve been repeating what we’ve been doing for years. If you think about the scores for Lady Vengeance or Oldboy or The Handmaiden, these are scores filled with emotions. It has a strong melody and rich orchestration. This kind of music does not match with the movie because the characters in the film are hiding their emotions. So if the song has too many emotions within them they’re advancing a step beyond the characters.”

In order to create a score that sounded fresh, they had to match the music to what was going on with the characters.

“Instead, we decided upon a new kind of music that did not focus on the melody. It was more about the texture of the song or the rhythm, and overall has a more contemporary feeling to it than the romanticist songs that we’ve been focusing on for our previous films,” Chan-wook said.

Decision to Leave follows a detective who, while investigating the mysterious death of a man in the mountains, meets his widow.

The film arrives in U.S. theaters on Oct. 14.

Main Image: Decision to Leave director Park Chan-wook courtesy of Santa Barbara International Film Festival