Bong Joon-ho’s post-apocalyptic Snowpiercer is less than a month away from premiering in Korea. The rest of us, however, will have to wait awhile longer. The Weinstein Company will release Bong’s English language debut in the U.S., but they haven’t specified a date yet. So until then, we’ll have to satisfy ourselves with what we can get from overseas, like this new gallery of stills from the film.
You get to see some of the all star international cast, like John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Ko Ah-sung, Song Kang-ho, and Octavia Spencer, but the primary focus is on the living conditions of the characters. Snowpiercer is set in the year 2031, after attempts to reverse global warming have kicked off a new global ice age. The only people left alive are a group of survivors on a train powered by a perpetual motion engine. As they endlessly circle the globe, a rigid, disparate class system develops among the travelers. There are the rich and, as you can see from these pictures, there are the very, very poor. In the lower echelons, resentment seethes until a violent rebellion bubbles up, engulfing the entire train.
While some of the passengers live in absolute luxury, with things like lots of natural light, clean living conditions, and education for their children, the rest exist in cramped, filthy quarters. Try to find a window any of these photos. They’re piled on top of one another, literally with stacks of narrow bunks that line the walls. A layer of grime and dirt covers everything, including the travelers. You can almost feel the grit on the tips of your fingers. The image of the filth covered Teddy bear leaves an especially poignant, lingering impression.
If you carefully examine these stills, you may also see a reference to Snowpiercer’s source material, the French graphic novel Le Transperceniege by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette. It’s looming in the background if you know what to look for.
Snowpiercer is one of my most anticipated movies in a long, long time, so hopefully the Weinstein’s will get the lead out and announce a release date soon. Bong is a master craftsman, and with films like his giant monster movie The Host he mixes moments of high emotion, action, darkness, and quirky comedy like some sort of crazed alchemist. While that sounds like it could be a mess, he’s adept at weaving the seemingly disparate threads together in unexpected ways, with fantastic results. If I spoke Korean, and could afford a ticket, I’d be on a plane to South Korea to catch a show when Snowpiercer opens there August 1.