Destiny Comes to You: Celine Song on Past Lives | interview

The New York bar location is so central to the story. You open with it and not quite close with it. It’s such a warm, amber-colored space. I’d love to know what you were looking for and how you found that particular space.

It’s called Holiday Cocktail Lounge, which is in the East Village. We were looking for something that is sort of ineffable, which has the feel of a local bar. The kind of place that you would take your friend to when they’re in town, but also had to feel really special because a really special conversation has to happen. It is about a thing that you cannot quite describe, which is kind of like the relationship that Hae Sung and Nora have with each other. It has to feel totally mundane, like the kind of bar you would just walk into, but, like the movie, it has to feel special, and it has to contain the whole movie too. That is something that you only know by seeing it.

At the Q&A last night, you mentioned “My Dinner With Andre,” which is such an amazing film. Did you have the cast watch it while you were prepping those conversations?

I asked all my department heads to watch “My Dinner With Andre,” and I think I did recommend the actors watch it as well. What I love about that movie, it’s so funny because you don’t really think that you’re watching anything that is so dramatic or so significant until you’re deep in it. Then you’re suddenly like, “How do we get here? How did this conversation get here?”

That’s the feeling that I needed that whole conversation to be because it’s the penultimate scene. So it also had to be put together that way. I put the scene together that way so that when we cut into each shot, it has to feel a little bit like you’re sort of slipping into it without even fully realizing it.

I love that when they’re talking about Arthur, you don’t cut to him, but when they’re talking about something other than Arthur, you cut to him listening.

I think you have to feel connected to that character, to Arthur, because him being at that bar is what makes this movie unique. That Nora and Hae Sung are able to have this conversation because of and in spite of him sitting there. I knew that there needed to be a moment where he’s a bit of a touchstone, where we can just see the moment in it, and that was the right moment for it. The conversation is being spoken in Korean, a language that Arthur does not understand, so there is fear, and there is vulnerability. There’s the insecurity that is going through his head.