Viet Nam News
Though they get less attention than film stars and directors, design artists are among the film crew members who make a motion picture successful. The Shape of Water won the production design award and other three awards at the 90th Academy Awards on Sunday.
At the 20th Viet Nam National Film Festival held last November, Cô Ba Sài Gòn (The Tailor) agrabbed the Golden Lotus for the best design artist. The picture is among several productions such as Mẹ Chồng Tôi (Mother in Law) made last year with a careful focus on the characters’ appearance.
Overseas Vietnamese Trần Nữ Yên Khê is a design artist for many movies such as Norwegian Wood - an official nominee at the Golden Lion International Film Festival - and Eternity.
She spoke about the role of art design in a film.
What’s your point of view on the role of beauty in art? Is it necessary, for example, to have beautiful shoots depicting flooding?
Basically, I think that the beauty means simplicity. It needs be right before it should be beautiful. The beauty needs to suit a character’s psychology in a particular situation and a particular time. The beauty in the movie should help the audience understand director’s idea and to have special emotions when they see the movie. If design artist makes the movie too beautiful it will be untruthful. And untruthfulness will not inspire emotions.
A movie tells a story but it first must be in the language of image. The history of film shows that silent films inspired audiences. The most important thing to me is truthful images.
Nowegian Wood and Eternity are the movies in which characters’ psychology is complicated, but their customs are more simple. What is the reason for this?
I don’t want to turn my characters into models in the movies. The movies’ scenes cannot be a catwalk. In Nowegian the characters’ psychology is very complicated. I really don’t want to design costumes which are too visually effective. In the movie in the year 1969-1970 Japanese youth live sadly. They were bored and stuck in life. Their costume in the movie needs to partly feature their style.
The simpler a movie is, the more moving it is.
However, in Eternity I decided to take some risks to change my style. The movie doesn’t have a dramatic story and most of the scenes are inside. If I have designed the movie simply the scenes in the movie wouldn’t be beautiful.
I use multidirectional movement of colour to feature non-stop movement in life. I have to colour the houses, the gardens and interior decoration. I have to calculate carefully to create truthful scenes.
Thinking of monochromatic and polychromatic design in movies, what is more difficult for you?
I used almost all blue and green in a light yellow sky in Nowegian. In Eternity I used orange yellow light. It is very difficult to create the depth shot in the background of small room. I chose green and red colours for tables in the light of orange yellow. It was a risk. But I think that it is necessary to make a risky choice that will leave an impression.
You are a demanding artist in your work. How did you teach at the training course recently held in Đà Nẵng?
Teaching is really difficult. At first, I wanted to make learners laugh to relax but they dared not laugh. I shared all my working experience with the learners. We understood each other after a short time.
I always tell the learners that they should avoid costume design which will make their movie like a catwalk. Many people love In the Mood for Love because of the beautiful costumes. But I don’t. These beautiful costumes don’t match the leading role’s story. Audiences just see her clothes but not her personality. The unsuitable costume makes the story untruthful.
Factually, I’m not prissy. I am demanding of myself in work. My job gives me the chance to travel a lot and meet many people. I learn many things but I think the most important is to have a personal point of view. I think that a design artist needs be strong to convince other people in the film crew to believe in her or his creative ideas. — VNS