Park Chan-wook Writes For Empire On The Origin Of Decision To Leave: ‘I Wanted Simplicity’ – Exclusive Image

Decision To Leave – exclusive

by Ben Travis |
Published on

South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook is behind some of the greatest, most gorgeously-crafted thrillers ever made – the kinetic brutality and emotional devastation of Oldboy, the narrative rug-pulls and eroticism of The Handmaiden, the gothic seduction of Stoker. Now, he’s back with Decision To Leave – a film that, in true Director Park style, combines twisty plotting and grisly moments with an emotional vulnerability. In fact, it leans even further into romance than his previous work – a particularly Hitchcockian brew of wild feelings and the actions that come as a result of them.

Ahead of the film’s UK release, coming to cinemas this October, Park wrote exclusively for the latest issue of Empire – delivering a personal piece about the creation of his latest feature film, his first since The Handmaiden, and a return to Korea after helming every episode of John le Carré adaptation The Little Drummer Girl. Read an extract from the feature below, talking about the point of origin for his latest must-see movie: a desire to go smaller and more intimate.


Empire – November 2022

Funnily enough, the decision to make Decision To Leave, which in some respects is the most Korean of all my films, was made in London. This was in August 2018, when I was in post-production on The Little Drummer Girl for the BBC. My screenwriting partner, Chung Seo-kyung, who has worked with me on the scripts for Lady Vengeance, I’m A Cyborg But That’s OK, Thirst and The Handmaiden, was in town on holiday.

The sudden arrival of an old friend from my homeland, at a time when I was overwhelmed by work, sparked my motivation. That is, to start on my next film. (I’m a little embarrassed by the fact that when I’m exhausted from work, my chosen means of recovery is not rest, but to take up new work.) And it helped the next project to take shape.

Looking back, it seems that each film I conceive is a kind of reaction to the previous film. After JSA, which explored the division of Korea into North and South, I was moved to make Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, about class issues within South Korea; the ‘cold’ Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance was followed by the ‘hot’ Oldboy; after the masculine Oldboy came the feminine Lady Vengeance, and so on.

In this way, The Little Drummer Girl was issuing me orders: not to fashion some kind of complicated drama about global politics, but to make the simplest of love stories. Even The Handmaiden’s plot had also been quite complicated. Now, I wanted simplicity.


Empire – November 2022 cover

Read Park Chan-wook’s full feature on the making of Decision To Leave in the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever issue of Empire, on sale now and available to order online here. Decision To Leave comes to UK cinemas from 21 October.

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