Actress brings literary masterpiece to big screen

August 19, 2020 | 10:20
Actress Mai Thu Huyen is making a film based on the Vietnamese 19th-century literature masterpiece Truyen Kieu (The Tale of Kieu) by Nguyen Du. The movie is being produced between two social distancing periods due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
actress brings literary masterpiece to big screen
Actress Mai Thu Huyen at work to direct the motion picture entitled Kieu. - Photo

The Thao Van Hoa (Culture and Sport) newspaper reporter Tieu Phong spoke with the actress about the movie.

When did you first think about making this movie?

I have loved The Tale of Kieu since I was small. I think that such a big famous work deserves to be made into a movie.

I planned to make a television series in 2010. Regrettably, I could not make it for many reasons.

This year is the 200th death anniversary of great poet Nguyen Du and I don’t want to miss the chance again.

I prepared for the motion picture last year. It will be 90 minutes.

The Tale of Kieu is a story about the tragic life of Thuy Kieu. Do you think a motion picture can properly capture the ups and downs of her life?

Thuy Kieu suffers terrible adversity over 15 years. It is true that a movie cannot be like a television series to tell what everything that happened in her life.

Therefore, I chose one period in her life that I think has the most attractive elements to put in the movie.

What has been the biggest difficulty in making the movie?

If a movie was like a literary work, I think people wouldn't need to watch the movie. They could just read the story.

However, The Tale of Kieu is an epic poem with more than 3,200 verses. Each period of her life was depicted in a short and condensed version. It is the same as the other characters in the tale.

Thus, filmmakers have the chance to put more of their creativity into the movie.

It is an old movie and the biggest difficulties are setting the background and costume design.

We had five field trips looking for backdrops in 20 provinces and cities. Finally, the movie was shot in the central provinces of Hue, Quang Binh and Quang Tri, the mountainous northern provinces of Cao Bang and Phu Tho, and HCM City.

However, some scenes in the movie were set up because we could not find the right places. We also spent a lot of money on costumes.

Readers always imagine Thuy Kieu as a beautiful and well-educated woman. How could you find an actress for Kieu?

I had to think a lot about the casting of Kieu. I wondered whether an established actress or a new face was suitable for the character.

I needed the chosen actress to spend all her time on the movie including preparation and shooting

Casting was held in Hà Nội, Huế and HCM City with thousands of girls.

From the bottom of my heart, I wanted to choose a new face because I want the audience to think she is Kieu.

Acting workshops were held for three months supporting the leading actress. She had to learn to play đàn nguyệt (two-chord banjo). I also invited Kathy Uyên who is experienced in young actor training to help the leading actress.

I’m satisfied with my decision because the leading actress is perfect.

How did COVID-19 pandemic affect filming?

Shooting was scheduled to start on April 2 but Vietnam began social distancing on April 1. I had to delay shooting until June 12 when the pandemic was controlled in the country.

Luckily, when a new COVID-19 patient was found in Đà Nẵng the crew had finished the final scenes in Hue.

You could say the movie is special because it was made between two COVID-19 outbreaks. We were very lucky to complete shooting.

What do you expect from the movie?

The movie had good preparation. I hope the movie will make box office revenue. However, it will depend on the release time and needs luck as well.

I also have a plan to distribute the movie abroad such as the US and Australia after screening in Vietnam.

You are known as an actress and producer, why did you want to become a director?

Being an actor is much less strenuous than a director or producer. Filmmaking is extremely hard. It usually means working in extreme weather conditions.

Sometimes, I ask myself why I chose this hard work. Perhaps I like a challenge and want to conquer the challenge.

I am not afraid of hardship as long as I can do what I want.


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