‘Past Lives’ actor Teo Yoo shares life journey intertwined with ‘inyeon’

There is a word in Korean, inyeon. It means providence or fate. But it's specifically about relationships between people," a line from the critically-acclaimed film "Past Lives" goes. Teo Yoo, who plays the male lead role Hae-sung, says he is a firm believer in inyeon in real life, and that he feels he is connected to every role he has played as if he had lived each character's life in his past lives. "The concept applies to every moment in my life, including the very moment sitting here right now (for doing an interview)," the actor said while meeting with a group of reporters in Seoul on Thursday, ahead of the movie's release next month in South Korea. "I wouldn't be here if I had opened the door five seconds later," he said metaphorically, adding life is like "a bifurcated branch" that presents him with choices to make, leaving lingering questions about the road not taken. In "Past Lives," Korean-Canadian Celine Song's autobiographical feature film, Yoo delicately portrays Hae-sung's complicated emotio ns, regrets and what-ifs about his childhood sweetheart Nora who emigrated to Canada decades ago. Tightly holding onto the string of their fate, or inyeon, the two finally meet up in New York for the first time in 24 years, with Nora's husband Arthur in attendance. Awkwardly translating between the two men, Nora finds herself torn between her past and present lives. "What if this is a past life as well, and we are already something else to each other in our next life? Who do you think we are then?" Hae-sung asks Nora. But it is also the question that he has kept asking himself. The movie has won critical acclaim ever since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January last year. It has been nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at this year's Academy Awards slated for March 11. Yoo said he has been so lucky to have met such a "life-changing" film, which "has broadened" the range of choices for him as an actor. "I felt heavy pressure to perform well in the so-called 'Korean-centr ic' work by CJ ENM of 'Parasite' and A24 of 'Minari,'" he said. In fact, many of his previous works have been well received in the global film industry, including his feature debut in Julia Loktev's "Day Night Day Night" (2006), which premiered in the Directors' Fortnight section of the 58th Annual Cannes Film Festival. Yoo was born in Cologne, Germany, in 1981 to Korean parents who emigrated to the country on an overseas work program. During his university gap year, he visited New York where he enrolled in an acting school, not out of aspiration to become an actor, but more out of his need to get a long-term visa, he said. As if by fate, however, it didn't take him long to discover his talent and yearning for acting that he had not known he had. "It had been two weeks (since starting the school) that I realized my life was forever changed," the actor reflected, adding that he realized acting makes him really happy regardless of roles or audience size. "At one point, I seriously thought about going to a clown school in Russia," the actor said. "I knew I could live a happy life even if I made a living by performing as Pierrot for children in a park." With "Past Lives," Yoo became the first Korean actor nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role at this year's British Academy Film Awards. The film is set for release in South Korea on March 6, following its debut in theaters in the United States in June. Source: Yonhap News Agency