Special relationships inspire filmmaker

December 28, 2022 - 10:37
The international award-winning movie Tro Tàn Rực Rỡ (Glorious Ashes) is a return of director Bùi Thạc Chuyên after over 10 years of absence.
Award-winning director Bùi Thạc Chuyên. Photo from Facebook of the artist

The international award-winning movie Tro Tàn Rực Rỡ (Glorious Ashes) is a return of director Bùi Thạc Chuyên after over 10 years of absence. The movie took the top award at the Festival des 3 Continents 2022 last month in Nantes, France.

Việt Nam News reporter Nguyễn Bình interviewed Chuyên about the movie.

The movie is adapted from the stories Glorious Ashes and Củi Mục Trôi Về (Floating Rotten Wood) by writer Nguyễn Ngọc Tư. Did you talk with the author after the movie opened?

I understand the writer's psychology. It is not easy to see her "child" in another way because it is embedded in her mind. Tư didn't say anything after she watched the movie. But I think that she understands and feels sympathy about the difference between literature works and movies.

I thank the writer because she supported the film crew and she helped me to edit dialogues.

Why did you include the two short stories?

My first idea came from Floating Rotten Wood, not Glorious Ashes. Floating Rotten Wood attracted me due to the strange relationships between a monk and a man who is newly released from prison and a crazy woman who loves her rapist.

After reading Glorious Ashes, I like very much the impressive details in the story. I choose it for the movie script. But I see the structure is not strong and I combine the two stories to highlight the love, responsibility and sacrifice between woman and man.

The Asian social structure makes men very vulnerable to crisis because they place on themselves great responsibility, as well as the pressure to be a solid breadwinner for the family.

So sometimes they are very easily broken. At that time, the soothing from their women is very important.

The movie has slow pacing which is not suitable for young audiences. What do you think about that?

It is normal. Literature is a very different thing having a "magic" of its own. With just one word, a reader can imagine a lot of things around it. When it is picture, the audience won't imagine. So, audiences cannot watch a movie with a literary imagination, they will be disappointed.

After watching the movie, writer Tư's readers said that I created a different work.

Tư's stories are not slow and they are very short and powerful. The movie is two hours and the script has over 100 pages.

I decided to make the movie because the story is special. It is a very sad and tormenting story. But it is true. Relationships in Tư's stories are illogical but believable. That is why it is special.

Filmmaking is the same. The difficulty is how to make the audience believe that the illogical story is true. I see that the audience feels it is believable after they watch the movie.

You are not from the south-western region in which the film story was set. How did you find the movie setting?

I spent time wandering in the region with a camera to take photos. I want to embed myself in the regional culture, feeling the south-western identity. We went into every nook and cranny of the south-western provinces to discover the setting. We needed to find the place for the setting and where the crew can stay during the film shooting as well.

We chose a place near Cao Lãnh City in Đồng Tháp Province. This land and people are innocent and rustic. The people are familiar and generous. They really impress me.

Fire is an important factor in the movie and you didn't use visual effects. How do you shoot the fire scenes?

I want to thank cameraman K'Linh. He is the director of photography of the movie. He has experience shooting fire or explosion scenes. In this movie, he also shoots the scenes in the sea professionally. He uses the camera lens very well to shoot impressive fire scenes.

The crew are facing the fire but no one moves. They love the movie and know that the fire scenes need to receive strong attention.

I remember that the crew was scared when I asked them to shoot the fire scenes again.

Glorious Ashes was shot in the pandemic. How did you complete the movie shooting?

We had only 40 days to shoot the movie because of limited budget. We had to plan shooting time. We shot one fire scene from 6pm to 6am the next morning.

We are lucky to have investment fund for the movie production in the pandemic. We had a journey to find investors. In 2019, a newly established fund in Singapore invested in the movie.

With only about 15 days left, we were nervous because one of the crew member was F1. Luckily, he was fine.

Are you and the distributor worried about the movie's revenue?

We, including the crew, investors and producer, don't think about revenue.

In the past, film festivals always awarded movies which are not easy to enjoy. Take for example the blockbuster Parasite won the US Academy Award.

I think that this is a milestone helping people to recognise that a movie needs an audience. If I like a movie, it is not enough. I respect the audience the most. I want the audience to feel the movie.

I think this movie wins the audience's heart because it is about women who are half of the world. - VNS