Arthouse Garage Podcast

Podcast Transcript for Episode 34: Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer

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Read the Podcast Transcript for Episode 33: Bong Joon Ho's The Host

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Andrew Sweatman 0:10
Hello, hello and welcome back to art house garage the snob free film podcast where we make art house indie classic and foreign cinema accessible to the masses. I am your host Andrew Sweatman, and in this episode we are continuing season five of the podcast, which is contemporary Asian filmmakers. In the previous episode, we looked at Bong Joon ho and his 2006 film the host. Today we’re moving on to his 2013 feature, which is called snowpiercer. snowpiercer is a fascinating action film, and Bong’s first to be filmed primarily in English. It tells the story of a dystopian future in which all surviving humans live aboard a train called snowpiercer, which is endlessly circling the planet. It stars Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, john hurt, Kang Ho Sang, and many other pretty big names. I’m thrilled to be joined once again by Omaya Jones, film podcaster, and programmer of the Arkansas times film series. He’s been with us all season long, bringing so much insight into these films and filmmakers. I’m I How are you? And what have you been watching lately?

Omaya Jones 1:20
I’m doing well. I’ve been watching a lot less lately than I did sort of in the in the peak quarantine era. Yeah, of the year. But there are a few films that I watched I think are worth mentioning. One is called the loveless, which I think is the first feature film by Kathryn Bigelow and it stars Well, I can’t believe I’m blanking on his name. loveless and look it up real quick. Well, um, it’s it’s it’s it’s Willem Defoe. I believe I could remember well,

Unknown Speaker 1:54
yeah.

Omaya Jones 1:56
And it’s this. It’s an 80s film that I think takes place probably in the 50s. And it’s sort of this Ode to those biker movies like The wild ones or something, where a group of bikers come to town and they wreak havoc. I also watched a documentary by a director named da Pennebaker called town bloody hall that was recently put on the criteria channel and recently got a blu ray release. And the premise of the film is that one night in the early 70s, Norman Mailer, and then a panel of feminists got together to talk about feminism. And, like the structure of the event was that each of the women participants gave us a 10 minute speech, and then normally would ask them a question to ponder. And then and then they would respond to his questions. And his attitude. He’s very much patronizing and very chauvinist. But the story of the film is that they they filmed this really without query with anybody. So David Pennebaker was working with Norman Mailer. And they agreed to film this, but they didn’t tell any of the panel participants. And so the way the story goes, is that he was running around with his camera crew all night trying to avoid security, before things were settled down and was able to film it. But then the film reel set in his studio for several years until Chris had to guess who he went later, Mary came to apply for a job. And then she was going through just footage that he accumulated and found this and thought it was worth doing. So she added it together. And then they put it out. And yeah,

Andrew Sweatman 3:38
what was the title of that again?

Omaya Jones 3:41
town bloody Hall.

Andrew Sweatman 3:43
And that’s how I’m criterion channel. Mm hmm. Yes, that sounds very interesting.

Omaya Jones 3:47
I highly recommend it’s only like 82 minutes long. So it’s not a huge commitment. But yeah, it is a fascinating document. So check that out.

Andrew Sweatman 3:54
I love a nice short movie to actually just season of life. I’m in with two kids. I frequently like on letterboxed, I’m like, Okay, let’s sort this by time. How much time do I have? actually really do appreciate that? Because being pressed for time, and loving movies sometimes are challenging to go together. But that sounds really interesting. I’ve watched a couple of things that I talked about devs on here with you the show devs I don’t think so. I mentioned it, I think last season I’d started it and I finally finished it. This is Alex Garland, who directed x mokena and annihilation and also was a writer for never let me go. And I believe sunshine that Danny Boyle film, so quite a sci fi mind and this is a TV show for FX and I really liked it. I finally finished it. It’s just a eight episode miniseries. And it is kind of about freewill and I can’t really talk about What the central conceit is without kind of spoiling it, because over the course kind of learn what it is gradually, but it’s very heady and dark and moody. And, you know, I think is getting pretty mixed reviews. I really liked it. So I’ll recommend that. And then Alex Garland is. Yeah, I’m just kind of onboard to see whatever he does. And it’s always been pretty fascinating to me. So recommend devs. And then I watched following, which is the first Christopher Nolan film, a feature from 1998. And it’s pretty good. That’s talking about short films, it’s like 63 minutes or something. It’s just just over an hour. But yeah, I really did like it. It’s a I mean, it’s feels very low fi compared to anything else he’s done. It’s black and white. It’s shot in like Academy ratio. So it’s kind of, you know, square, almost, and it’s about a guy who, he’s a writer, and he follows people to sort of draw inspiration for characters is kind of what he says at the beginning. He ends up getting mixed up with a guy who is a burglar, basically. And in Christopher Nolan fashion, there’s some jumping back and forth and time and there’s some twisting plot things that happen and yeah, I enjoyed it. Have you seen falling before?

Omaya Jones 6:21
I have. It’s been a while. And I don’t really remember much about it.

Andrew Sweatman 6:26
Yeah, I can see that. Like, I can understand feeling that way. Like it’s it’s not as memorable as any of his others. I didn’t mean I can see that as in. You sound like you forgot it. I mean, like, I can understand, like, that’s probably gonna be the case for me too, honestly. But I did enjoy it. Like I definitely like I think, not as good as memento for looking at like, his early stuff. But yeah, there you go. I thought, you know, with his new one out, kind of prepping for that and watching some some old Christopher Nolan thing. So I think the only other thing I haven’t seen if his previous work is insomnia, which, you know, I think is generally not a favorite among fans. I do want to watch it. But I am a fan of a lot of his other stuff. But anyway, following i thought was pretty good. It’s also on criterion channel. And I think it has a disc release as well. So there’s some good special features on the channel. You can watch there as well. All right, well, without further ado, I guess let’s get into today’s movie, which is Bong Joon Ho’s is snowpiercer.

Omaya Jones 7:30
This chaos has been people in an iron box.

Unknown Speaker 7:36
18 years I’ve hated

Unknown Speaker 7:40
18 years I’ve waited for this moment.

Omaya Jones 7:44
This is a world the train save humanity. The engine lasts forever. The population must always be kept in balance.

Unknown Speaker 7:53
I said sit down

Unknown Speaker 7:58
eternal audit logs from the sacred engine, we will occupy our preordained position. I belong to the cross. You belong to the tail. No.

Unknown Speaker 8:17
Kidding.

Unknown Speaker 8:20
Those baskets in the front think they will be different when we get there.

Omaya Jones 8:26
We take the engine and we control the world. What is the time soon?

Andrew Sweatman 8:34
All right, let’s talk about snowpiercer. So as I said this from 2013 it is primarily in English. I listened to an interview earlier today and Bong Joon ho said probably like 70% is English. There is some Korean as well and a few Korean characters. But I think it is first that’s primarily in English, although he had done something in Japanese previously, too. And so in an interview that I watched, he talked about, you know, the language barrier with that was kind of a learning experience for this. But anyway, the the film is its dystopian future. As I said they, the world is frozen. So I really like the setup of this. And it opens with like news, audio clips, telling what’s happened basically to combat global warming. The government has sent I guess the world governments kind of collaborated to send this chemical into the atmosphere, on rockets or something. And it’s meant to cool down the world. They overdid it or something went wrong and the world is now frozen, and almost everyone is dead. And the survivors live on this train called snowpiercer. That is called that because it can bus through the snow and ice and it’s going around the world. And that’s kind of the general setup. The train itself is divided. It’s a very long train. No several cars, the rich people live in the front and the poor people live in the back is basically the setup so it it ends up as other bangin home films are about class and wealth gap and sort of wealth inequality. And so it’s kind of symbolic of society. So I think it’s an it’s a really interesting and creative setup. And within that we have characters focuses on Chris Evans character whose name is Curtis. And he is He lives in the back of the train, he’s a bit of a reluctant leader, for a lot of the people there, they live basically in squalor, it’s kind of industrial feeling, and they basically dream of revolting and kind of getting to the engine at the front of the train and taking control of the train. There’s also there’s strictly enforced with guest police, military style. Law enforcement who are very harsh. Tilda Swinton plays Mason, and she is sort of a sort of a second in command or a higher up person, she’s, she’s always dressed very nice. And she comes back and lectures them about their place in society, and they, why they have to stay in this part of the train. That’s how the society has to work, there has to be a top and a bottom and all of this. And so she’s the villain character. And basically, it follows them as they do start a revolt and kind of traverse to the train. And that’s, that’s kind of the general plot of it. It’s, it’s got some other things going on. But I guess let’s talk about those things. I thought it might be good just to first talk about the train itself and, and how it is a symbol for society. And there is so much classism kind of tied up in this story. And also the fact that it is adapted from a graphic novel. So am I have you How many times have you seen this film? I’m curious, I understand you’ve read some of the graphic novel too, so maybe you can talk about their relationship there as well.

Omaya Jones 12:05
Yeah, um, so watching it for this was the second time that I’ve seen it, I think, I may have seen it, I’m gonna say like, I’m gonna say just two twice. And I have read the first volume of the graphic novel, I believe there’s two volumes. And in terms of the specific plots, it’s very different. But in terms of the themes, is pretty much the same with the idea of the various sections of the train representing different parts of class, which is something that bond, you know, comes back to his films a lot. And another film that I watched, sort of recently was his first feature. barking dogs never bite. And like it along with Ojha to an extent, and snowpiercer, and parasite are all dealing in one way or another with various forms of class and like, how society structured around class and what that does. And so what snowpiercer, what we see is course all the poor people, the back the middle class in the middle, and then even, like, as you get towards the front of the train, and people become wealthier. What you’ll you’ll see these, these different changes were like, the windows disappear again, right, so there are no windows in the back of the train, there are no windows in the front of the train. The color, the color like this, yeah, storytelling, the use of color changes were on the ends of the train, there’s sort of these muted color palettes. And then in the middle class, you get these brighter, more vibrant colors, the full range of colors are used in that section of the train.

Andrew Sweatman 13:44
So that’s interesting. I watched a panel from a film festival that bongino did back in 2013. And he talked about just the challenges. So as far as the color goes, I wanted to talk about the production design. I think it’s really interesting. Yeah, in the back of the train, it’s it’s very grungy and dirty as I mentioned, kind of an industrial feeling. Like all the people have like dirt on their faces, like it’s squalor, basically. And as you move forward, it, each train ends up having a little bit of a different feel to it. And they like gradually getting, you know, quote, unquote, fancier. And Bong Joon ho talked about making basically 26 different train car sets that’s a film on and what a challenge that was to keep things interesting. And also, just always filming in a confined space of a train car, which does seem like an interesting thing. And it’s, it makes for an interesting viewing experience to that. You know, we look out the windows at some things sometimes, but we’d never leave this train. And there’s some interesting set pieces like action pieces around that as well. that some of which felt very graphic novel ask, I think there’s one moment I really liked were they there may have to go through each of these doors. So as they first escaped the back of the train, they they let out Congo songs character whose name is non goon means Ooh. And he is like a security expert. So he can break through these doors. And kind of kind of like consolo style can like hotwire them and open them up. And he’s there with a family member who what’s the character’s name? That’s his daughter, his daughter, I can’t remember if it was a daughter.

Omaya Jones 15:37
Yona Yona

Andrew Sweatman 15:39
Yes. And she has an interesting ability to see slightly into the future or through the walls, or it’s not exactly clear. Chris Evans asks her if she’s clairvoyant. And so there’s a few moments where he’s about to open the door, and she knows what’s about to be on the other side of it. And that happens a few times, I thought it was set up really well, because there’s at one point, kind of where this comes to a head, she’s like, Don’t open the door. And it’s kind of this tense moment, suddenly, door opens. And then there’s a Music cue. And that’s just a really odd scene of these security guards wearing these hooded masks that are just showing their mouths, and they look like executioner’s or something. And it’s really eerie. And I think that was a moment of the tone of this that I really liked. And after I watched it, you know, this was based on a graphic novel, that seems like maybe straight out of a comic book, that that image of the the security guards, but um, yeah, there’s some some really well directed moments like that, that he’s good at building tension. And then there’s a lot of action scenes like fight scenes, again, in this enclosed space, and it uses the light, there’s a moment when they go through a tunnel, so it’s just pitch black, and they have to stop fighting, except then there’s some night vision and so that he throws a lot of really creative things into these action scenes. There’s one where the train is on a big curve, and they’re able to basically shoot their guns through the windows across the curve to the other cars of the train. That was the creative touch as well. And then there’s like a school train car, and we see children learning. And then there’s like a nightclub and some like spa kind of thing, too. And then, of course, we get to the engine room at the end of the film, and it’s got its own kind of design as well. So yeah, the production design, I think, is a strength of this. It’s really kind of diverse, but it also it all feels, it feels futuristic, in a way, but also grounded, I think, somehow in reality, but yeah, what do you have any thoughts on the production design? Other than that?

Omaya Jones 17:46
Yeah, well, so the first thing I would say is, you know, you liken some of the action to something of a comic, but I would say that one of the differences, essentially, what the, what he took from the comic was the concept of the train. And a lot of it. Other than that is sort of his of his own creation writers guys, that the comic is not like an action book. A lot of like, yeah, there’s no like, so a lot of combat and a lot of guns and shooting and things. There are a couple of action scenes, but it’s nothing like the film itself. What I think is interesting about the production design is so I think at the time, this was like one of, if not the most expensive Korean production. And so it had a fairly large budget, but not necessarily a large budget for an action film. And he’s talking about how just how much planning and design had to go into the storyboards to figure out how are you going to how you’re going to design the train cars and what was necessary, because there wasn’t a lot of extra money to spend on things that are cut. And so again, is processes to meticulously storyboard everything, and then kind of shoot what you need. And so a lot of that storytelling work is figured out in the storyboard process. I also think it’s interesting that the width like the way the film is formatted, you know, it’s a train. So you know, sort of like parasite where classes symbolize up versus down right? Here is its left versus right. And there are a few key moments in the film, where Chris Evans character has to make a choice. And so he’ll look to his left, and then he’ll look to his right. And that is sort of what propels the film for him. Tony, Joe, are you familiar Tony Joe? No. He’s a video essayist. Or he was he stopped making video essays, I think, several years ago, but he made a he had a video, a YouTube channel called every frame of painting. Oh, yeah. And I think that some of those Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So he, he talked about snowpiercer and the left versus right thing and sort of a shorter video that I think is worth checking out. Yeah, but an E license. It’s almost like a video game, right. There’s a in a video game. There’s always a point, like a side scroller where you have a choice to go left. Right. And and Chris Evans in this film is always propelled right or forward, because he feels like it is his job to be revolutionary. And the idea of a revolution is something that it’s in the film that’s not in the source material.

Andrew Sweatman 20:16
Yeah, that’s one thing I did hear in an interview he talked about, he said, he literally went into his favorite comic shop. And it’s a French graphic novel. But they happen to carry it only in France and Korea, is what he said. And he said, he read the whole thing standing there in the comic shop, and he was like, obsessed with it. And but then that was the one thing he did say there, too, was that he brought in all the revolutionary aspect of it, that the concept was there, like you’re saying, but no, no revolution. And this is interesting, because in the film, he talks about past revolution attempts and all this. So I did think that it probably had some action. And so that was surprising to me. But that’s all I know, at this point. But yeah, the the revolution aspect of it, I think is, is interesting, because that’s essentially the whole the whole plot is just trying to get to the the front and take over. It’s not exactly clear, I guess the plan is to kill the the driver. And there’s an interesting kind of God complex that it sets up with the engineer. And he seems to people follow him as with a religious fervor, they almost pray to Him, and then the kids sing a song about him. And it’s an interesting setup. I really like till this woman’s character, she is kind of almost cartoonish. But of course, she can pull that off because she’s incredible. And everything she gives a speech early on about you wouldn’t put your shoe on your head, and again, kind of talking about the the way society is meant to function. And if we don’t all stay in our spot, then society crumbles. And there was an interesting thing, bunker, you know, said in this interview to about the hand gesture that she makes, like a turning, turning your hand kind of like, like almost like turning a sink on or something like that, that she does a few times. And then I didn’t quite catch this connection, but it was made clear in this interview that well, I guess we’re going to get into spoilers if we talk about where that comes. I was

Omaya Jones 22:19
gonna I was gonna ask if you want to get into spoilers, let’s hold off. I’ll okay. Yeah,

Andrew Sweatman 22:24
we’ll talk about that at the end. But yeah, that’s an interesting thing that ends up having kind of a haunting, kind of a resonance to it. Let’s talk about the characters in this are Chris Evans is the lead, as I mentioned, and I think he does a pretty good job. It’s I mostly like Chris Evans in things and he is kind of he definitely has a leading man look. And in this, he’s, he’s very kind of tortured. And we don’t find out why till the very end. But I think he mostly carries us pretty well as the lead actor. Bong Joon ho talked about casting him and basically just having seen him, he kind of wrote him off originally, as, you know, a Marvel actor. Basically, it sounds like and someone had to convince him No, he’s actually done a lot of kind of smaller indie dramas and things, and some and some different things, and then kind of okayed it and brought them in. But what did you think about Chris Evans in the semi?

Omaya Jones 23:24
I love him. I love Chris Evans. You know, I’m glad that his career sort of taken off. There was a period of time where there were these articles that he was talking about potentially retire and things before he was cast as Captain America and things sort of turned around in his career. But he, I’ve always thought that he is an interesting actor.

Unknown Speaker 23:47
And that

Omaya Jones 23:49
I don’t want to I don’t, don’t don’t take this the wrong way. But he’s similar to a Brad Pitt. Right. And I think his body type sort of pigeonholes him right onto to some extent, and it sort of it characterizes the way you look at him. But I think he has more range than that. I mean, it’s different. Yeah. Yeah, like is different that people have called Brad Pitt, a character actor and elite man’s body. And I’m not quite sure Chris Evans is a character actor, right. But he has more range, and depth. And I think you would think, just if you were just to look at him and his physique. And bunkyo talked about how when they cast and one of the hardest things was covering up all of his muscles, because he’s supposed to be this guy from the back of the train. He was sort of emaciated and not properly malnourished. Yeah. And so like, I had to, like hide all of those muscles underlying things. That’s funny. But yeah, and also, like, you know, shout out to Chris Evans. I think a lot of times with some of these movies that may be on paper. riskier. It’s always good to have star power, right? Yeah. He like he’s doing the same thing that like Robert Pattinson or Kristen Stewart does where they’re using the fame that they acquired doing. Huge tentpole films to get funding for either nd RL stuff. Or in this case, a Korean director doing a big budget English language movie for the first time.

Andrew Sweatman 25:29
Yeah. Like how many people were scrolling through Netflix and saw Chris Evans and thought, Oh, this sounds interesting. And like, I would never have watched a Korean directors film, you know, but because Chris Evans is there. So yeah, I agree. And that’s, that makes sense. That contradiction in sort of physical form, and what you would expect him as an actor, that reminds me of something. This kind of off topic, but on podcasts, I heard talking about another actor with a similar kind of dichotomy, or a different kind of contradiction. And in what you would expect is john C. Reilly. That was interesting, because he’s like a big kind of bulking guy. But he always plays sort of a This was on the podcast, film spotting, I listened to a lot that he always plays, someone who’s feels inadequate, or think about him, like his character in Chicago, or in a lot of different things he’s done to the sisters brothers, he sort of has this hulking form, but this kind of gentle and like, maybe he doesn’t feel like he’s as masculine as he should be. Like, that’s anyway. So that’s interesting. I like actors that that kind of can play with that and I think you’re right that Chris Evans has that as well. He does. Like he cries in this movie. I think that’s an interesting thing that it bombs you know, actually brought that up in this interview as well that he he wanted someone who could kind of push that but also have the action. The action hero kind of chops. I really like I’ll say one more thing about Chris Evans. I really like him in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the super different kind of character, but he in that he plays this like, skater bro. And he just really funny so like, he really has some good comedic chops and then like knives out, we see the comedic side of him big time recently in that one, but be a he he can do really well, the dramatic stuff as well. Right. Let’s talk about Tilda Swinton again. So I mentioned that she kind of places cartoonish, seemingly cartoonish character, she has these glasses that kind of magnify her eyes. And she’s kind of prim and proper amidst all this. She’s in the back of the train where everything’s really dirty. But she, her character’s name is Mason, and bongino talked about meeting with her and wanting to work with her, but not having a part for her in the script he was working on which was snowpiercer and realizing that he could switch the gender of the mason character because it was originally a man and tell us when you can actually do this really well. And until this one has a certain in some things, a certain androgynous character actually is played male characters before. So I think she’s probably the perfect person to play that kind of a role. And it is interesting, because I got a sense, watching it. It’s like, it’s interesting that this woman would would be part of the, the higher ups in this train because it does feel like I don’t know, patriarchal, in a way. But yeah, so that that somehow wasn’t surprising to hear. But it was really interesting that that was how that character came about. What do you think about this one in general, you fan of her?

Omaya Jones 28:46
Yes, I’m a huge fan of Tilda Swinton, I want to give a shout out to a film that’s coming out on blu ray on October 6, that she’s in, I first saw it. I think my senior year in college for a class called digital art and culture is called techno lost. And, and Tilda Swinton plays a computer programmer who is working on a project that results in creation of a computer virus, or for Tilda Swinton, maybe it’s three, maybe it’s three Tillis wins. And then there’s the computer scientists, which is her so that makes for, but they come to life into the real world. And they start spreading a technological virus to humans. And it’s a very strange film, but I love it. Also like that, Orlando, I don’t know if you seen that, or she plays in, like 16th or 17th century nobleman, who then becomes a woman as sort of this exploration of sort of the way you’re gonna define your roles in society. And, you know, she ends up in that character role and ends up living for like 200 years and at the end of the film, she’s in the 20th century. And so she makes all of these wonderful Strange films. Yeah. And then like in the last I would like I would say 1520 years since the Lion, the Witch in the wardrobe. She sort of burst into the mainstream, but she still is able to maintain like this dual career path of like strange, really strange stuff. Yeah. And then more mainstream fare that she’s like, I don’t know. She says fantastically wonderful actor. Yeah. That, you know, she makes any movie more sane because you never know how she’s going to approach a character or a role.

Andrew Sweatman 30:30
Yeah, I’m looking at her IMDb have forgot like she’s in the Avengers. She plays a pretty big character and and then Dr. Strange. But she’s also in so many odd things. There’s a David Bowie video before David Bowie died. Where there I guess there are a couple of it’s not quite clear, but she’s made up to look exactly like him. And it’s really interesting. They’re, like sitting on the couch and matching outfits is such a weird video, but I love it. And then yeah, so she’s just, she goes there into some odd places. With a lot of her her characters. I think about her in Grand Budapest Hotel as well. She plays like a really old woman. He’s, she’s made up to be like, very old. And she’s really funny in that tear. Yes, tell us when it’s great. And then so her character in this. They she’s taken hostage basically, towards the beginning. And as they are moving up the train, they have her handcuffed and she kind of helps them out. It’s it’s that kind of interesting relationship because you kind of go to like her a little bit at least I did. And even though she’s pretty hateable at the beginning of the film, and I think that’s another thing that like she could pull that off as an actor, but so yeah, I mentioned Congo song as the security expert. And he’s tricked you I honestly didn’t recognize him. At first, it took me a while to realize like, I thought Congo song was in this, like, Oh, wait, that’s him this whole time. He has this kind of greasy hair. And he’s, he’s playing, I guess, against the type that I’ve seen of him Do I know he’s in lots of things that I’ve never seen, but he’s kind of angry and stolen out of the film, and collecting this drug. So there’s this drug that many people on the train are addicted to, primarily wealthy people? Because they can afford it, I guess. And it has an interesting name. I can’t recall the name of it right now remember the name of that drug they do?

Omaya Jones 32:29
It’s like Kronos or something? Yeah,

Andrew Sweatman 32:30
something like that sort of the K. And they, they are working for that. So like, the more they open the doors, the more they earn of that. That drug, he and his daughter. And it ends up having a sort of interesting thing as well. But the when they get to a nightclub towards the end, everyone’s on this drug. And everyone’s kind of strung out. And it’s, it’s an interesting plot element. But I think I keep wanting to talk about spoilers. Maybe we should go ahead. And is there anything else like not spoiler you want to talk about with this film? Because I want to talk about his arc a little bit, but it gets into the ending of the film as well. Yeah, I

Omaya Jones 33:12
think we should dive into spoilers because there’s, like the only thing you think to say about his arc that maybe not as No, it is spoiler.

Andrew Sweatman 33:19
Alright, spoiler alert, go watch snowpiercer if you haven’t, I think it’s on Netflix. So it’s pretty easy to get to. But, yes. So keep talking about in his character. But so bommarito, in this interview, said that the Congo song character is sort of his mouthpiece in the film a little bit, because they, they get to the end of the train, and Chris Evans wants to know, okay, let’s go in and meet the engineer and take over. But he says, No, we need to leave the train. When turned out the drug they’ve been collecting this whole time is an explosive. So they have a huge amount of that, and they built a bomb out of it, they want to blow the side of the the train open and escape into the frozen tundra. And he, he, it’s fairly certain he has a theory that things are warming up, and it’s livable again. And so if we’re looking at the sort of the train is a symbol for society, and looking at the class structure, that would seem to say that Bong Joon ho is saying, okay, here’s here’s the train. Here’s how things are working with upper class, lower class, middle class, and where capitalism has gotten us basically and saying, maybe we need to throw that all out and try something else. Like let’s leave the train. Whereas no one else even sees that as an option and thinks he’s crazy for even wanting to, to set foot out outside. So yeah, I think that’s an interesting the way that plays out was not what I was expecting. I could there was I wondered if we would ever leave the train and we don’t into like the very, very final moments. But yeah, what were you gonna say about something? spoilery?

Omaya Jones 34:57
Well, I just it’s the way that throughout the film Every everybody else is concerned with whether they should go forward or backward. Or as his characters were most concerned with what’s going on outside of the train, right. So it’s not about forward or back, it’s about going outside of this environment. And so like his character is the one where it’s almost like he’s saying, the sort of class robot that you guys are concerned with, it’s not the real issue. Like we can all just leave the train, we have another option, right? Besides the train. And so like, there’s a scene where there they go past a spot where he knows people who left the train and tried to trick out of it or frozen it, he notices just that the snow is melted, that position is different. You used to be able to see all of them, you can see more of them now. And so like he’s very much attuned to what’s going on inside outside. And if you notice, in the school scene, right, or they’re learning propaganda, essentially, yeah, car. But throughout the film, he sort of teaching his daughter is a train baby because she was born on the train. So call them train babies. And he’s teaching her about the outside world. So he shows her dirt he, he’s telling her just how things work on the outside how to grow food and things, so that she has this information once they’re no longer tied to the train, because that is always his goals, get off the train.

Andrew Sweatman 36:19
That’s really interesting. Yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. And I think that yeah, that’s so like, exiting the train is like the the final out at the end is kind of a cool way to, to kind of break out I think that the the plot that’s been going, they they end up getting so let’s talk about that gesture, I guess the the, the kind of hand turning gesture we learn is that there’s a couple of children that have been taken from the rear of the train. At the beginning, we find out that they are being put to work in the most dangerous part of the train, they’re the only ones small enough to fit in this crawl space, and turn this certain crank all the time. And so that hand gesture is meant to end we see the engineer does this as well, is meant to symbolize we all have our place, including child labor, basically. And so it’s sort of sort of a big symbol of like, just how messed up this all is. And the engineers interesting, too. It’s Ed Harris, who he’s, I think, got the right presence for sort of the the person we are kind of, there’s some expectations about who’s this, who’s his engineer going to be. And I think he does a good job. And I always think about him in the The Truman Show kind of playing a somewhat similar character a little bit like in charge of things. But he again also has like a sort of a prize and God complex. But as in charge of everything, and he, he speaks about the way things work with, with like a religious fervor and with a certainty that nothing will ever be different than this. Which is another I guess, clue that that something could be that they could kind of defy that. What do you make of that kind of final scene with in the engine room?

Omaya Jones 38:07
So I guess so first, I’m gonna go back to the to the swing character. Yes, I was wondering is the implication there that she came from the tail section, or they just used to take children from the middle class section? Because to me the applications that she was once when she was a child, and she was small enough that she know that was her job. Yeah, I guess like, that’s, that’s how I read it. Without sort of trying to do the math in terms of like, how long they’ve been on the train and how old her character is supposed to be. But I wonder if like, you know, once you get old enough

Andrew Sweatman 38:43
to graduate into

Omaya Jones 38:44
high society, right? Like your reward for that for doing that job as a child is to sort of become at least middle class or upper middle class or something interesting. And Harris’s engineer character, I think, is where the movie starts to fall apart for me as that when the characters who are sort of just speaking in an like ideology, yeah, they’re just they’re super speaking. There speaking theme. Yeah. And that, that I think one of the critiques of the movie is that it’s too on the nose. Yeah. And I think those kinds of things are like, where that starts to feel real to me. I wasn’t really moved by the speech, or the like, the dilemma of the Chris Evans character necessarily at that point. Something about the end of the film does always falls flat for me.

Andrew Sweatman 39:41
Yeah, I would agree. And so I was gonna say that we typically don’t do a ton of like a review kind of talk on this podcast, but this is a movie two that I didn’t quite connect with. And we kind of talked about that the other day as we were texting. But yeah, so as far as i think i Overall, I would say I enjoyed this. I’m glad to have watched it. And I think it has so much interesting stuff in it. But for me, yeah, it wasn’t quite the emotional experience that the host or parasite was. And I think there’s a few reasons for that. I think what you’re talking about, were Yeah, at the end of the dialogue gets. So yeah, elevated and ideology Laden, that it’s a kind of loses believability. And I think there’s some of that, even from the beginning. I think, too, that I didn’t have a real sense of character, really, for Chris Evans, especially at the beginning. And you kind of have this sense that he has this secret, and we don’t learn what that is till the end. And basically, there’s that early on, and the early days of the train, there was cannibalism. And he didn’t do enough to stop that from happening, essentially, that’s kind of the short version. And he has this long speech explaining all of that, that I think that speech to the writing just didn’t quite, it wasn’t, didn’t quite pull me in. And maybe by that point, I was kind of at a distance emotionally from it so that it didn’t kind of hook me back in but I don’t think it was as much Chris Evans fault as that may be, what’s the script. But I think that kind of gets to the overall issue for me, I think is the tone of it, it’s kind of, it’s hard to say whether we are in like a, hey, wants to be grounded, and also kind of fantastical, at certain moments in a way that didn’t quite mesh for me, which is interesting, because in the host and parasite, that’s something I’ve praised specifically is the mixing of tones. But in this, it just didn’t quite, quite work. So we have like the school car scene, where we have almost this like, absurdist feeling the way the characters are talking to each other. And that just doesn’t mesh with the back of the train, we’re trying to be so gritty and feel kind of realistic. So yeah, I think for those reasons, I kind of lost me along the way. And then I think some of the action scenes didn’t quite, it gets a little repetitive too, which I mean, it’s all in the enclosed spaces. So that’s, that seems like a real challenge to to not make it repetitive. And some of the production design because I really liked production design in general, but then some of the moments at the end, like the nightclub scene, and then right before the engine car, there’s like the the room with all the kind of grinding gears. And I was like, okay, someone’s definitely gonna fall in there. But I don’t know, I didn’t that that sequence from the nightclub to that moment to that. That’s area. It kind of got too, out there for me, which I don’t it’s like weird to kind of criticism, it almost felt like the fifth element or something where it gets. It’s so kind of Gonzo, that it just doesn’t he doesn’t match everything else, I guess is the issue. But again, I really am glad I watched this and, and I, I think function hos a filmmaker, I’ll take a chance on. Yeah. So what other issues you have with the film? I think

Omaya Jones 43:05
everything you said about the Chris Evans speech at the end, I think is why the first time I saw it, I didn’t necessarily care for it. Watching it again, though. I guess instead of issues, I’ll appraise the movie in some insurance, like some of the action scenes, even though some of the action does get repetitive once they get towards the front of the train. And it’s just sort of it just becomes a chase. But like the blackout fight, where then they call for fire from the back of the train like that. That is really cool. Yeah, that’s like a super cool sequence. Even even though I think like the first, I don’t know, 2030 minutes of the film, where it’s all about when the revolution is going to start is kind of a slog for me to get through. But once that the action starts, right, and with the scene where they connected a bunch of carts with wheels, going to will them through the doors to hold them open to the other parts of the train like that, I think is like just as top notch action filmmaking. Yeah. And I think bunker hood does a lot. Just to keep things interesting visually, like, even in that school car scene, even though it may be it’s a little over the top with the way Alison Pill plays that character. Yeah. There’s like lots of things happening. There’s lots of camera movement. Like he really plays up just the insanity of that situation. So I don’t want to sound like I’m too harsh on it, or I think it is not. It’s my least favorite boundary home film that I’ve seen. But yeah, I’m glad that I watched it a second time. Yeah, I can’t I can’t see myself revisiting.

Andrew Sweatman 44:51
Yeah, I wonder if a second viewing would ease some of that for me too. I think like, see, I agree like once they bust through the door. That gets really exciting and, and as you’re continuing to see more and more train cars and like what’s outside of the usual environment we’ve grown accustomed to, like, that’s really compelling. It’s like, what’s going to happen next. And it kind of keeps me going for a while. But the other niche kind of fell off for me again, tone wise, but But yeah, I still think it’s such an interesting concept that there’s so it’s really thought provoking, even if I didn’t love the execution of it. Yeah. So there’s our tell us how you really feel. There’s our opinions about this. But yeah, let’s see. Oh, one other is another kind of quibble I had with it was. So yes, I love the the blackout scene. And like, we get, as I mentioned, when they first see those, those body guards with those strange hoods. And then like, that whole sequence, I think is great. And that’s at the end of that when they captured Tilda Swinton. And that was really compelling to me. He got a little, I think, for later action scenes. So I mentioned that scene where they’re going around a curve and shooting across the train. That thought that was a kind of a clever thing that felt comic book II to me. So you’re telling me that’s not in the comic book. But really, I mean, I kind of got it in my head about, like, that’s too far away. Like, there’s no way, it just felt really unbelievable, I guess. But then. So like, I just wasn’t really loving that. And then there’s some fighting in like, this kind of spa area, where it’s like, there’s a lot of doors and stuff. And it just was not super compelling action for me. past that, that sequence you talked about.

Omaya Jones 46:32
I was gonna say, it’s just challenging because, uh, so there’s this quote, where bengio was asked about the difficulty of shooting and tried such the difficulty of shooting inside such an enclosed space. And so he talks about how he and the DP started to refer to it as a hallway movie. And because I mean, if you think about it, you know, it is. So not only does the left right thing, work as a storytelling device. It’s also something once you decide to set the whole movie on a train you’re sort of locked into. Yeah, you know. And so then the question is, like, how do you do this to keep it interesting. And I think overall, the film does a really good job of keeping it interesting. But there are just a few. There are a few times where maybe either feels repetitive, or in terms of the dialogue is too on the nose. But then again, when you when you look at some of the discourse, maybe subtlety is overrated, because, no. Yeah, sometimes she got to really just hammer at home, so that people get it.

Andrew Sweatman 47:30
Yeah, I could absolutely see that. I mean, and like, as far as action movies, like, as far as like, bad action movies I’ve seen. I don’t think this is a bad movie at all. Like, this has more creativity, you know, and it’s five minute opening, then then some action movies I’ve seen in the whole thing. And I’m probably too picky about action movies in general. But yes, I again, I, I really respect this movie, I guess, and I’m glad it exists. And I do encourage people to see it. Despite those those issues, it just was not to the level of the host or parasite for me. And sounds like not for you either. But okay, um, I, you sent me a quote from an interview, and I’m going to read it and kind of talk about it. And it kind of gets back to that the overarching theme of the train as society. So it says the train in snowpiercer, with the rich living, living it up in the luxurious front carriages and the poor subsisting in squalor at the back is a fast moving metaphor for that very system. And then, quote, The train explodes at the end, the survivors must go outside. Now they are free from the train, but we don’t know what will happen to them. So is he saying that this is what society should do that we should blow up the train? And then the quote is a yes, he works excitedly. And then we all go outside and freeze together and die. It’s just a funny, funny quote, there from Bong Joon Ho. So yeah, what do you make of that?

Omaya Jones 48:49
It To me, it paints the directors as a sort of a playful cynic. And maybe a playful pessimists. Because, you know, he seems to be always in good spirits. And he’s a fun guy and creative guy. But there’s sort of like a nihilism. Yeah, embedded in there and to his worldview. And then I think even if you look at some of the way his films play out, there’s a question as to whether or not you can ever really transcend these class barriers. Yeah. You know, and I wonder to what extent his view is just that it’s a constant struggle that you’re always sort of fighting. Yeah. And then at the end, we all die together. Mm hmm. I don’t know to what extent that is supposed to be literally the end of the film, though. I assume that hopefully they make it

Andrew Sweatman 49:37
Yeah, I think so. So that’s interesting, too. So like we we kind of noted in the host that at the end of that film, it’s it’s like snowing outside, which mirrors the end of parasite as well. And that’s like, I don’t know if I’m reading too much into kind of drawing a connection there. But obviously, there’s a lot of snow in this as well. And and for me, as I thought about like the the The symbolism of this film, it’s sort of like, outside of this is a frozen wasteland that like, this is all there is kind of thing. So I don’t know if it’s just pointing in the same direction saying in the host. I really think about it more with parasite that in the end of that it’s, it’s it’s cold and bleak. And the way I read the end of that film, which I’ll try not to spoil parasite if you haven’t watched it, but there’s kind of an interesting moment there. And I read that as a tragic moment. And whereas I think there are other people who read it as to kind of pointing towards something hopeful. And so that would seem to fit with, you know, this cold and desolate world that we must, you know, somehow live in. And so maybe that’s, that’s a recurring theme, I guess, because the end of the host is not really a super happy ending, either. Like it’s, it has its its hope, as well. But overall, I’d call it a pretty tragic ending, despite the the connections that are formed there, but yeah, I don’t know if I’m reading too much into that. But maybe there’s a connection, perhaps I

Omaya Jones 51:10
think I think the host is being sort of bittersweet, though. Yeah. There’s this familiar reconciliation that happens. And there is this child that has sort of saved. Yeah, from abject poverty. parasite, though, like my reading of that is very nihilistic in that. Yeah. Well, I don’t want to spoil parasite people who haven’t seen it. But I feel like that is much.

Andrew Sweatman 51:38
Yeah. There’s like a dream, and dream of something better that that’s dashed, basically. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s, it’s, it’s almost like I feel like that’s a theme I’ve seen in different things like in snowpiercer. If it’s, you know, let’s blow up the system, even if it means there’s nothing else and we all die, like, Is it better to live in an unjust society or just to call it a day on society at all? But and that’s a provocative question that, you know, I don’t Yeah, I don’t necessarily read. Yeah, bunking house as a nihilist in that way. I don’t think about something like some of the themes in Fight Club, where it’s like, they they want to burn everything down, like kind of the anarchy of that maybe kind of getting a similar thing. Or I think about, have you seen a movie called cabin in the woods? Yes. Yeah, the ending of that, which again, I don’t want to spoil but there’s a kind of an interesting character choice made that sort of spells, Doom for some other people. But basically, it’s like, if this is the system, then screw the system, and like, we’re better off without it. Maybe. So I don’t know. It kind of that just popped in my head as possibly analogous to the attitude from that quote from Bong Joon Ho, but that is interesting. Well, have we said oh, we need to say about snowpiercer at this point.

Omaya Jones 53:03
I think so. I think we may have

Andrew Sweatman 53:05
Snowpiercer. Very interesting film, very creative film. bonking Whoa, I do think is one of the best directors we’ve got these days. So I think anything that he’s made is worth a watch. To check out snowpiercer as we look ahead to the last two episodes of this season, we are moving on to a Japanese filmmaker, Hirokazu koreeda, looking at his film shoplifters next, and then his newest film the truth. I’ve seen shoplifters before, and I really, really liked it. And I’m excited to revisit it and discuss it here. And then to look at the truth, which is his first English language, film as well as snowpiercer was for four bucks, you know. So looking forward to that for next time. And

Omaya Jones 53:50
yeah, I guess I guess we’ll get into that. You’ve seen shoplifters before. I have seen shoplifters. I’ve seen a couple of others of his films. I’m excited to see the truth because I have not seen that yet.

Andrew Sweatman 54:01
Yeah. Well join us for that next time. And until then, we will call it a day. Thank you for being here Omaya. Thank you for having me. Absolutely. If you want to support our house garage, you can leave us a rating or review on your podcast app that really goes a long way into helping new people find the show. You can also follow us on social media at our house garage on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and letterboxed. We also sell t shirts on the website, art house garage.com slash shop some cool movie themed shirts there. And you can sign up for our email newsletter, our house garage comm slash subscribe. Thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep us not free.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Andrew Sweatman

Andrew Sweatman

Andrew is a writer, podcaster, and film lover who wants to help people think critically about movies. He lives in central Arkansas with his wife Allison and two children, Rosie & Beau. Andrew is the Senior Editor at Arthouse Garage. Find him at ArthouseGarage.com and on Twitter and Instagram: @ArthouseGarage.

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