Once news broke that The Weinstein Company had acquired international rights to Bong Joon-ho’s hotly anticipated Snowpiercer, it was perhaps inevitable that the film wouldn’t make it to Western screens unscathed. It has now been revealed that Harvey Weinstein has ordered the revered Korean cineaste to cut a whopping 20 minutes from his film before it will see the light of day in North America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or the UK.
The Sci-Fi blockbuster has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from Variety, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter and right here at Twitch, and is currently smashing box office records following its release six days ago in its native Korea (to date a record 3.76 million admissions). So why does Weinstein want to cut it?
According to film critic and programmer Tony Rayns “TWC people have told Bong that their aim is to make sure the film ‘will be understood by audiences in Iowa ... and Oklahoma.’” Effectively, the notorious Hollywood executive believes the American mid-west is too stupid for Snowpiercer, a movie which essentially chronicles the journey of a few people at the back of a train who stage a revolt and proceed, in a straight line, towards the front.
Rayns continued, “Leaving aside the issue of what Weinstein thinks of its audience, it seems to say the least anomalous that the rest of the English-speaking world has to be dragged down to the presumed level of American mid-west hicks.” The film critic attended the July 29th Seoul premiere of the film, and after speaking with Bong, revealed that most of the cuts would come in the form of character detail, effectively turning this rich Sci-Fi thriller into a straightforward action film. Adding further insult to injury, voiceovers will now be added to the opening and closing of the film.
Weinstein (or Harvey Scissorhands as he’s known in some quarters) is well known for cutting and dumbing down foreign films for the US market, such as Princess Mononoke (1997) and Shaolin Soccer (2001). Snowpiercer, though 126 minutes long, doesn’t have a great deal of flab which could easily be cut out. However, it is a very dark film, which may explain why the demanded cuts are so significant. If they happen where I think they will, much of what makes this film so special will be lost.
According to Rayns, the UK will be protesting TWC’s proposed cuts and he hopes that Australia will follow suit. Sadly though, American audiences are likely to be presented with a substantially different version of Bong’s bold and ambitious film, and will probably have to wait for an uncut “director’s cut” to appear on DVD/Blu-Ray before they can see the real thing.