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By Heidi Martinuzzi | March 7, 2005

Karena Lam, Hong Kong actress, and Angelica Lee, stars of the new thriler Koma, released in the US by Tartan Video, open up about their characters Suen Ling, a seemingly wicked and devious femme fatale who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and Chi Ching, a forgiving and terribly pitiable woman… or is that REALLY the way their characters are? Director Chi Leung Law also participates in this intriguing look into the basis for Hong Kong female-driven thrills and chills.

“Koma” is a thriller that describes a thoroughly disturbing relationship between two women, one Chi Cheng and Karena’s character Suen Ling. Director Chi leung Law, and actresses Karena Lam and Angelica Lee sat down with Film Threat to share their ideas on this new form of Hong Kong, female-driven psychological thriller….

Do you see the characters of Suen Ling and Chi Ching as weak, or strong? Why?

Karena: Strong, of course! Having a tough background, family life, experiences, or difficult way of survival on her own…she is strong. In the end, when she takes on her own life, that is a decision she can think of it as her best revenge to Ching (Waimans’ girlfriend); she’s sacrificed her own life to save Ching’s; or you can say her death is her way of, finally, finding peace and no more burden for good.

Angelica: She (Chi Ching) is very weak as she always escapes and lies to herself when facing problems.

Does this film focus on women as victims, though?

Chi Leung: Just the opposite. I think this film is to praise and prove the toughness and ability of women. Thats why I had designed the worst character for Chi Cheng’s boyfriend.

Is Suen Ling the “bad” character?

Karena: Ling is bad when you first look at her, but when you look further on you’ll sympathize with her because she has no choice. she is just trying to survive, is that so wrong? Nothing is only in black or white.

Chi Leung: I would say no. This is because every character had two sides. But if you want an answer, I would say Chi Cheng’s boyfriend is the bad character.

How would you categorize the friendship between Suen Ling and Chi Cheng? Are they really friends, or truly enemies?

Chi Leung: Chi Cheng became a friend of Suen Ling because Chi Cheng is simple and straight forward. It is also because Suen Ling reveals her exordinary relationship with Chi Cheng’s boyfriend, which is also admitted by him. Chi Cheng starts to believe in Suen Ling, Suen Ling is not a suspect, and she saved Chi Cheng’s life. After knowing that Suen Ling’s mom is in a coma, Chi Cheng thinks that Suen Ling, like herself, is a victim. Chi Cheng feels that she has wrongly accused Suen Ling, she wants to compensate. This is Chi Cheng, when she dislikes, she dislikes, when she likes it, she just does it. The reason why Suen Ling helps Chi Cheng in the end is simple, when someone is dying, her thoughts became kind. When Suen Ling lost her mother, and the man whom she loves most told her he never loved her, she has chosen to end her life. Since she is dying, why not save someone she hates and is jealous of? This is Chi Cheng. “There is of course a thought of revenge in this plan that you hate me, but my organ will always be inside you, you can never be parted with me.”

Do you think this movie portrays women in a non-traditional way?

Karena: I think this portrays women in the real-world. It is not just honey, spice and everything nice…women are complicated.

Angelica: Actually, this movie doesn’t portray women only. It’s talking human nature rather than women. No matter how weak a person is, when she/he was compelled to an unendurable situation, she/ he will do her/his best effort to react on it. It’s just like when a weak mother can sacrifice her life to save her child.

When women are in psychological thrillers, they tend to be viewed as sexual predators or sexual victims. Do you think that either Chi Cheng or Suen Ling are victims or predators?

Karema: I think this is just an element that comes with a psychological thriller to make things more entertaining for the viewers.

Angelica: No.

Do you think that Chi Cheng and Suen Ling are different from the female characters usually found in Hong Kong movies? Usually women are either martial-artists or very very weak characters…

Karena: Yes, I think Ching and Ling are quite different from your usual female characters found in Hong Kong films. Many films in Hong Kong are male-lead.

Angelica: Yes. They are very different roles.

Chi Leung: I think the difference is that I am not aiming to make a thriller. Thriller is just a means for me to make audience watch my movie. I always have something else I want to tell to my audience, for example, the relationship between women, such as the jealousy and friendship between them. My film is different from other Hong Kong thrillers, what I am thinking is just about two women and their intelligence, even stronger than men.

Do you think because this script was written by a woman, Susan Chan, that it has a different perspective on women?

Karena: Perhaps….

Angelica: I think there may be some kind of influence. But Susan is an all-round scriptwriter. Her portrayal of men is very great also.

You made some interesting color choices when filming. Have you seen a film by Dario Argento called “Suspiria” or a film called “Sisters” by Brian DePalma? If so, did they influence you when you made “Koma”?

Chi Leung: I have watched a lot of Brian DePalma’s movies, but “Sisters”. My pervious film “Inner Senses” tends to be black and white and being quite monotone. When I shot “Koma”, I did not want to repeat the color tone of “Inner Senses” again. In addition, when we were doing the research, we found some information that the patients suffering from kidney problem would have bad breath, very skinny, bad skin, etc. I have decided with my art director that the tone of the film should tend to be colorful as those patients do not want others to know their sickness, they will always dress up. This is why the two actresses always wear red clothes in the movie. Suen Ling dressed with dark red and Chi Cheng with light red.

Could you really survive if someone stole your kidney and then stuck you in a bathtub?

Karena: Actually, I heard this really does happen in some parts of China! I believe Lo Chi Leung first read this in an email and wanted to develop a thriller from it.

Angelica: I think I can survive!

Chi Leung: Yes. This is because everyone has two kidneys; we can still survive with one kidney. You will know when you meet with those kidney donors.

Have you seen the movies “Fatal Attraction”, “Basic Instinct”, or “Sisters<" from the United States? If so, how do you feel about "Koma" being compared to these female-driven thrillers?

Karena: Thank you. I hope this is a compliment because these films mentioned are successful psychological thrillers. I think “Koma” has what a good psychological thriller needs.

What, to you, is the most frightening aspect of this movie?

Angelica: The jealousy of humans.

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