On the 18th, The Book of Fish was revealed at a press conference ahead of its official release on the 31st of March. The film narrates the story of a scholar, Jeong Yak Jeon, who is intrigued by the ocean after being exiled to Heuksando, and a young fisherman who wants to escape the sea, as they bond while writing a book of fish together. Director Lee Joon Ik, Sol Kyung Gu, Byun Yo Han, and Lee Jung Eun attended the press conference after the movie’s premiere to talk about the work.
When asked why he chose ‘Jeong Yak Jeon’ as a historical figure to highlight in his movie, director Lee Joon Ik said, “I captured what kind of decisions and direction in life Chang Dae’s character would take upon in midst of the discord between Jeong Yak Jeon and Jeong Yak Yong’s values.” Regarding the inclusion of Hansi (traditional Chinese poetry), he added, “All the poems in the movie were written by Jeong Yak Yong. Because poetry was used as a tool to reveal the speaker’s worldview in Joseon Dynasty, the Hansi included in The Book of Fish carries the sentiments of suffering from the times, much like Yun Dong Ju’s poetry in Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet.
Whilst The Book of Fish is the first historical drama for Sol Kyung Gu, he says, “I worked on it as the director gave me courage telling me that it suits me well. We were able to work with the best teamwork since we filmed, unlike other historical dramas. It was a fun and enjoyable process, so I think it’d be nice to give historical dramas another go.” As for his harmony with Byun Yo Han, he explained their special friendship saying that they got along well regardless of whether they were in or out of the shoot.
Byun Yo Han also said, “Sol Kyung Gu is a senior I really love and have become to adore him even more through this work. There were many moments I learned and felt a lot of things.” Regarding the character of Chang Dae, he said that “it was homework till the end of the shoot to know how he looked at Jeong Yak Jeon, the village people, and to express their relationships.” “Though lacking, I tried to act truthfully for the black and white film,” he added, expressing his feelings for the movie.
Playing the role of Gageo Daek, a resident of Heuksan Island, Lee Jung Eun introduced the character as a “bridge that delivers the way of life on the island to the exiled Jeong Yak Jeon on behalf of its residents, and establishes ties with Chang Dae.” She then went on to say, “I paid a lot of attention to my facial expressions because it’s a black-and-white film, and the story may seem too much if I overdo it even a little bit.” She also revealed her reaction to the premiere saying, “I’m losing my mind crying to the friendship of Jeong Yak Jeon and Chang Dae which transcends age.”
The film has been receiving favorable reviews from major Korean media outlets since its release. Here are some reactions from the press: “The time and its people captured in a black-and-white film” (SpoTV News), “The resonance which transcends age, status, and era” (The Celeb), “A gift in black and white with the master’s confidence and comfort” (iMBC), “A refined ink wash painting by Lee Joon Ik” (Media Pen), “The warmth created by the masters of acting and directing” (Hankyung Dotcom), “A black and white film that is more powerful than colors, and a heavy message” (Sports Today).