The Jakarta Post
How would you feel if your loved one suddenly disappears?
Tae-yul (Jang Hyuk), the greatest swordsman during the Joseon dynasty, knows that feeling well. In the action movie The Swordsman, Tae-yul’s only daughter Tae-ok (Kim Hyeon-soo) is kidnapped by a cold-blooded slave trader Gurutai (Joe Taslim). With his limited vision, Tae-yul is determined to find his daughter, which also means facing Gurutai, whose sword-fighting prowess is not to be underestimated.
Helmed and penned by Choi Jae-hoon, The Swordsman is set amid a conflict between the Qing and Ming dynasties after the fall of the Joseon dynasty’s King Gwanghae.
Korean actor Jang Hyuk, who performed the stunts himself, collaborated with the film’s stunt team to come up with a new type of swordsmanship. Jang said the new swordsmanship was tailored to Tae-yul’s character, meaning it had to be flexible as he didn’t fixate on one style.
“We wanted it to be very plausible. ‘How is he going to overcome this challenge? We know it’s hard, but is it really plausible?’,” Jang said during an exclusive interview with The Jakarta Post on Oct. 12. “I think that was really fun and interesting.”
As the main protagonist, Tae-yul’s actions speak louder than his words. With his eyesight mostly gone, he relies on his senses and speed in fights. This prompted Jang to train without his vision during preparation. In playing the character, Jang said he tried to be subtle with his facial expressions. His actions were also meant for survival rather than showing off.
The Swordsman is the first Korean film for Indonesian actor Joe Taslim. Preparing for his role as Gurutai, Joe did a lot of research about the Qing dynasty and its languages, including the Manchurian language. As he found it difficult to learn a new language in two to three months, Joe decided to focus on his lines, especially their intonation and structure. He made a habit of recording the pronunciation and listening to them daily. Alongside doing research and learning a new language, Joe also had to train with swords for the first time. With the film’s stunt team, he trained on a daily basis.
Joe stated that Gurutai is an antagonist with layers and he could relate to the character as he shared the same fascination of martial arts. “He loves martial arts so much. He always tries to be the best, though in the film he tries to be the best swordsman in a cunning way,” Joe said during a press conference. “As for me, I want to be the best in what I do. I train myself to be the best and challenge myself every day.”
Additionally, Joe learned a lot from Jang, whom he regarded his “big brother in terms of acting, experience and action”. He admired Jang for being proactive in sparking discussions with the director and exploring his character. “It’s fascinating, because what I learned was great. Action is not just action. […] We see badass action for sure, but we want to see the drama inside the action. We want to see why this character survives, why a character kills,” Joe said.
As for Jang, he praised Joe for being considerate to ensure that every scene went smoothly. “Everybody recognized him as an amazing actor. He’s excellent, but it was his attitude that really impressed me. He wasn’t acting just to show, but to truly embrace the entire moment,” Jang said.
When asked what was the most challenging scene for them, both answered the final fighting scene between Tae-yul and Gurutai.
“In the actual scene, I got hurt a bit – there was a bit of an accident,” Jang said. “Even in that situation Joe was very considerate. He let me take a break and recover, because by that scene, Tae-yul and Gurutai had attained a tremendous level in their martial art. That was the most memorable scene for me.”
Joe commented that he had to be highly confident and fast for that particular scene. He said the one-on-one action scene was like “a dance scene” that required strong chemistry between the actors. Both got carried away by their characters and their movements got faster and faster. “I was so lucky to be able to work with Jang Hyuk, who gave me the energy, action and reaction. We did it splendidly, though I accidentally injured his eye,” said Joe. “After treating his wound, he immediately returned to the scene.”
The Swordsman is available at CGV Cinemas starting from Oct. 29. (wng)