Sadly the talk of Bong Joon-ho’s sci-fi epic “Snowpiercer” has been restricted to two things – the great news of its success in South Korea ($65 million in just that one territory), and the awful news of the proposed cuts and changes by The Weinstein Company for the film’s Western theatrical run.
BFI have now done an in-depth article looking at the latter, and have revealed the edits and changes being negotiated to the “western cut” of the $40 million feature may be more drastic than first thought.
First up, the film wasn’t screened on this past Fall’s film festival circuit because programmers were “forbidden” from watching the director’s cut as the TWC’s approved cut for North America wasn’t yet ready.
As previously revealed, the Weinstein’s essentially wanted to cut out many of the non-action scenes to turn the film into a more conventional thriller. The article indicates Bong was shown a rough re-edit from a DVD screener that TWC had prepared to “suggest to him how the film might be ‘improved’ for American audiences.”
That version had cuts which totalled to 25 minutes being excised from the 119 minutes (sans credits) runtime, which essentially meant “most of the character-detail”. Bong was then asked to come up with a shorter cut of his own, and to add “explanatory voiceovers” at the beginning and end of the film.
The whole point of these edits? To make the film comprehensible to the rather galling stereotyping of “audiences in Iowa and Oklahoma”. Harvey Weinstein also reportedly suggested the great Neil Gaiman as a potential writer for these voiceover segments, an idea Bong rejected.
To date the film has no scheduled release date in any English-speaking territory, though the film will screen its unedited cut at the Berlin Film Festival in March. The fate of which cut makes it to the screen is currently in the hands of the lawyers.