In Anatomy of a Scene, we ask directors to uncover the secrets that go into creating key scenes in their films. Watch new episodes in the series on Fridays. You can also watch our collection of 150+ videos on YouTube and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
America as a land of promise, a land of need or a land of fun? All three perspectives can be seen in this opening sequence from “Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung’s drama about a Korean family moving to Arkansas to start a new life in the United States. It’s nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
This sequence watches the Yi family (played by Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Noel Kate Cho, and Alan Kim) arrive at their new home, a trailer in the middle of a field. Yeun’s character Jacob is proud and optimistic, while Hans Monica is skeptical.
In an interview, Chung said the scene was in his head when he started writing the script and that the story would grow from there, a kind of hopeful void that would be filled.
“So it starts in a house that isn’t really set up,” he said. “There aren’t even stairs there.”
Then Chung explored the perspectives of the various family members through recordings and dialogues or the absence of them. Jacob is the first character we see getting out of a vehicle. “I filmed trying to make a man feel like he was getting off his horse,” said Chung. Then, when staging Han, he told her that her performance was often more of a reaction than a word. “Everything she has to convey has to be through the way she looks, the expression on her face, her gestures,” he said. And with the kids, he told them to just go out and have fun. He tried to document their performances in order to give the film a freer and less staged feeling.
Read the Minari review.
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