Film director Luu Trong Ninh: My adaptation of ‘The Tale of Kieu’ will carry Vietnam’s national spirit

Tuesday, 2018-04-03 07:43:08
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Film director Luu Trong Ninh
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NDO – Following the success of his TV series ‘Thuong Nho O Ai’ (Who Stole My Heart), veteran film director Luu Trong Ninh is now preparing for the production of ‘Kieu’, a cinematic adaption of Vietnam’s literary masterpiece ‘Truyen Kieu’ (The Tale of Kieu) by great poet Nguyen Du.

In an interview with Nhan Dan Weekly, director Luu Trong Ninh talked more about the project, which he described as the biggest project of his career and a good opportunity to convey his reflections on Vietnamese culture and the national spirit.

Question: It is said by making ‘Kieu’ you aimed to fulfil the wish of your father, poet Luu Trong Lu, to adapt ‘Truyen Kieu’ into a cinematic work. Is it true?

Director Luu Trong Ninh: My father once said to me that whatever I do, I had to work on ‘Kieu’ because it was widely known as a masterpiece imbued with the national spirit. It is a pity that he was unable to watch any of my films. He passed away in 1991 when my debut film ‘Canh Bac’ (The Gamble’) was released.

The conversation might have a significant meaning to you. Why do you wait until now to work on the project?

I wrote a draft for Kieu before but the project had to be closed because of disagreements between me and my partners, who didn’t want a totally new approach to Kieu. I had to seek new investors for the film. I am finalising the film’s script. There are still a lot of challenges ahead.

At your current age, why are you still full of energy and willing to challenge yourself with a literary masterpiece like ‘Kieu’?

I have never been bothered by age, I always feel that I am full of energy. During the making of the TV series ‘Thuong Nho O Ai’, I questioned myself about “to be or not to be.” Where will my life lead if I was so sick this way? And I decided to bring it on and do something! ‘Thuong Nho O Ai’ was made at a time when my health was in the worst situation. But I overcame it and I won over myself. As for Kieu, it will be another challenge for me to fight off, even though I know for sure that it is really tough.

How do you develop the character ‘Kieu’ in your project?

Kieu in the original version was portrayed with a lamentable and sorrowful fate. But I want to develop my own Kieu as a woman with relentless determination, like Scarlett O'Hara in “Gone with the Wind” who never surrenders to fate.

Characters in ‘The tale of Kieu’ by Nguyen Du were a general outline, which provides a space for creativity. I will fill the space with Vietnamese culture and the daily lives Vietnamese people. What I am concerned about most in the production of the film is how to ensure that it will be imbued with Vietnamese cultural identity.

Are you worried that your fresh adaption will face arguments from those who are familiar with the established and time-honoured value of ‘The Tale of Kieu’?

I think that we should think outside of the box. I don’t want to create an illustration of ‘The Tale of Kieu’. I don’t understand why there hasn’t yet been a cinematic adaptation of such a literary masterpiece which is rich in Vietnamese national identity. I am willing to be the one to take the first step, whether it will be a failure or success, I hope that my production will provide lessons for any successors.

My ‘Kieu’ film is scripted as a story of humanity. I want to provide viewers with an overview of Vietnamese history, culture, and daily practices of ordinary people.

Do you feel any pressure of being the son of a well-known poet, Luu Trong Lu?

Since I was a child, I was taught that fame or money isn’t a big deal. I grew up with the books and poem recitals of my father and his friends. Although my father was a great poet, my family wasn’t richer than others. My parents loved each other; they never argued or fought. They told me that the most important thing in life is to do things to better your community. If you always keep those words in mind, you will never feel tired or discouraged.

Thank you so much for the interview.