Cast of Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds start trying to be better people

After filming Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds, which explores hell, its cast have started trying to be better people

When you have worked on a movie about the judgment you face in the afterlife, it is no surprise that you try to improve your behaviour to become a better person.

That was what happened after the filming of Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds, the new South Korean fantasy blockbuster that looks at redemption and the afterlife.

Adapted from a popular Web comic of the same name, the film is about a heroic firefighter named Ja Hong (played by Cha Tae Hyun), who stands trial in seven levels of hell - each ruled by a different god - before he can be considered for reincarnation.

At every level, including a hell for deception and a hell for murder, he is defended before the god by three guardians, Gang Rim (played by Ha Jung Woo), Haewonmak (Ju Ji Hoon) and Dukchun (Kim Hyang Gi).

As they look back at key moments in Ja Hong's life, the god overseeing each level of hell will decide if he can move on to the next one or stay and suffer for eternity.

Working on the movie has encouraged director Kim Yong Hwa, 46, who also penned the screenplay, to ask for forgiveness whenever he does something wrong.

He had directed previous box-office hits such as 200 Pounds Beauty (2006), a comedy about a singer who loses weight to become a pop star.

 The Two Worlds stars (from left) Ha Jung Woo, Kim Hyang Gi and Ju Ji Hoon.
Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds stars (from left) Ha Jung Woo, Kim Hyang Gi and Ju Ji Hoon. PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

"In one of the scenes, I wrote the line, 'Do you have the courage to sincerely seek forgiveness?'" he said in an interview with select Singapore media in Seoul.

"After making the movie, I decided to follow this idea even though it's not easy.

"So whenever I make a mistake to my wife or employees, I tend to seek forgiveness," he said in Korean via a translator.

Teen actress Kim Hyang Gi, 17, who plays one of the guardians, chose to be more patient with her mother.

She said: "Usually, I get angry at my mother and I lose my temper with her quite easily and I never apologise even when I know I was the one at fault.

"After making the movie, I tried to apologise to her as soon as I lost my temper. I also talk more to her in general."

She has been getting acclaim for her performances since starting out as a child star in projects such as the film Thread Of Lies (2013) - for which she won the Best New Actress award at the Baeksang Arts Awards - and the TV series The Queen's Classroom.

The director hoped the film inspires soul-searching among audiences.

"Everyone has different ideas about what's good and bad, but I hope the movie will get audiences to reflect on their own lives," he said.

But this is also a movie with many other draws.

Besides the star-studded cast, the movie has generated hype given the huge fandom behind the original comic series.

Much has also been said about how the US$36-million (S$48-million) work is one of the most expensive in Korean film history, thanks to the lavish computer-generated images used.

Attendance figures in South Korea, where it opened late last month, have crossed the coveted 10-million mark, making it the 16th Korean film in history to do so after films such as historical drama Taxi Driver (2017) and zombie movie Train To Busan (2016).

As of this week, it has taken in more than US$86 million at the Korean box office.

The film also stars two leading actors in Korean entertainment: the stalwart actor Cha, 42, who is best known for starring in the mega hit romantic comedy My Sassy Girl (2001); and Ha, 39, a prolific actor best known for his turn as a serial killer in The Chaser (2008).

Ever the joker, Cha said "I would probably fail from the very first level", while Ha was confident of passing only the Hell Of Indolence.

"As a busy actor, I can never be lazy. So, at least, I think I can pass this level," he said.

Many reviews point out how much of a tearjerker the movie is, despite it being an adventure drama.

Cha's son Soo Chan, 10, was touched by the movie when he caught it at an early preview screening.

The actor said: "My son enjoyed the movie very much and he cried at the end. He may be young, but he fully understood the story and the emotions. I was quite moved by that."

He returned to his jokey self as soon as a journalist asked him whether he would pick looks or money if he got reincarnated.

He said: "I would choose looks and then I will work hard to earn lots of money with my looks."

• Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

• Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds is showing in cinemas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2018, with the headline 'To hell and back'. Print Edition | Subscribe