The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Director Ahn Gooc-jin brings his mistrust of the internet to big screen

By Kim Da-sol

Published : April 1, 2024 - 16:16

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Ahn Gooc-jin (Acemaker Movieworks) Ahn Gooc-jin (Acemaker Movieworks)

It took director Ahn Gooc-jin nine years to return to the big screen after his award-winning “Alice In Earnestland.” Just like the previous film, Ahn's latest work, “Troll Factory,” criticizes aspects of modern-day Korea through satire.

“Troll Factory,” a film adaptation of the eponymous 2015 novel by Chang Kang-myoung, reorganizes the story into a completely new structure. Unlike in the novel, the movie focuses on the character of Yim Sang-jin (Son Suk-ku), an investigative reporter who confronts anonymous internet trolls and the formidable power behind them.

In the film, when Yim breaks news on the wrongdoings of the country’s biggest conglomerate, Manjin Group, the firm then tries to manipulate public opinion with larger, captivating news headlines. A swarm of online commenters then leave malicious comments on Yim’s article online.

“I decided to focus on the story of Yim so that audiences would be able to concentrate on his outrage and frustration. Ultimately, both Yim and the audience are fooled by the trolls,” director Ahn told reporters during an interview in Seoul on March 22.

Yim fights a lonely fight. Even his editor-in-chief doesn’t call him back to work when his six-month suspension is over. When a stranger approaches Yim and asks if he wants to discover the truth behind the "internet trolls,” Yim, once again, is duped.

“I wanted to maintain a mood of suspense throughout the movie so that even the audience would ask themselves if they are being pranked,” said Ahn, noting that this was the reason he left the conclusion of the film open to viewers' imaginations.

In creating the film, Ahn conducted thorough research into the history of candlelight protests in Korea and combined what he found in his research with a bit of imagination to make the film's content realistic. The story of who started the candlelight protests is used in the movie’s opening sequence to grab the audience’s attention.

“A member of staff even asked me which part is true and which part is not. I got a thrill when even people with whom I was working asked me this throughout the project,” said Ahn.

Why did the director want to create such an uncomfortable, endless story?

“I wanted to throw out questions (to viewers) and open up discussions to create doubt about what we see and read on the internet. I had to create this suspicious mood so that the audience, even after watching the movie, can ask themselves ‘So what is true on the internet?’” Ahn said, adding that prompting such discussions to happen outside the theater was his intention in making this movie.

“These days, even an average moviegoer can interpret a movie and understand more about the overall storyline and its flow than the critics can. I think that this movie can foster this kind of culture and I’m very confident about the result,” said Ahn.

“Troll Factory” opened in local theaters on March 27.

“Troll Factory” (Acemaker Movieworks) “Troll Factory” (Acemaker Movieworks)