Dream of the Red Chamber has been hailed as one of the greatest classics in Chinese literature for centuries, and it is “based on a true story”. Like the arm of Venus de Milo, its missing ending is a mystery with only the first 80 chapters written by the original author. Although there were some foreshadowing of the eventual fate of the individual characters, but because the original manuscript of the ending was never recovered, it’s anyone’s guess how things turned out eventually.
The book is such an important piece of classic in Chinese literature that generations of scholars dedicated their lives to the study, coming up with different analysis, theories and speculations about the characters and their eventual fate. They are known as the Redologists.
With literary standing being likened to the status of Pride and Prejudice to the English, its content too bear certain similarities. In today’s context, I would probably see it as something similar to Gossip Girl? The rise and fall of rich families, their complex idiosyncrasies and complicated relationships. The male protagonist, for example, has been widely known by one camp of Redologists as bisexual–a concept that’s not entirely a taboo in ancient Chinese culture. Of course, to some conservatives, it’s just ‘friendship’.
The book is said to have characters who are manifestations of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian beliefs, the holy/philosophical trinity of Chinese culture. It might be a bit too intense for beginners not so familiar with these concepts (myself included), so my articles didn’t go too deep into those.
Like Romeo and Juliet, the characters were all extremely young in the book (about early to mid teens mostly), even though they might be married, have kids, have affairs, etc. It is just reflective of the society at a when people generally have shorter life expectancy (no judgement). The 1987 classic TV adaptation of the book had many actors who were far older than the actual age of the characters, and we were speculating that it might also be due to the fact that social norms have shifted and they didn’t want to propagate that idea that it’s ok to be engaged in these matters at such a young age.
We always start off the shooting session with a ‘storytelling’ by Jiaye, of the important incidents/milestones in that character’s life and the small incidents which are revealing about their character. Then after the pictures are out, I would be referencing different write-ups and articles about each individual characters, and finding a bit more about some of the scenes which were mentioned as part of the photo-story. This helped me learn a lot more nuances and details of the story, and definitely suited my way of learning since I typically find it really difficult to focus on finishing a book from start to end.
We had a few reshoots, and changed one model just to ensure that we get the right feeling of the model. Casting is extremely important, and they were all people we know personally, or from the previous project, and we are eternally grateful for their participation and patience~!
It’s a project that’s almost half a year in the making! We’re actually having another project in the pipeline… but as you know me, I rather take my time to get things right so you might have to wait a while for the next “blockbuster” series~!
Like how when I used to watch HK films, I would often wait till the end to watch the funny outtakes, we have had many hilarious moments like these which I’m sharing right at the end here…
There was the time when we used chocolate balls as the pill for Baochai, the queen bee who’s always feeling heaty/hot due to a medical condition and needed to take a particular pill to cool herself. We were shooting the video for that, and she’s supposed to slowly take the pill out of the container, and insert into her mouth. She popped it into her mouth, and chewed happily. It. Was. Not. Supposed. To. Be. Tasty. And yes, everyone likes chocolate…. LOL
And the Ice Queen Snowflake, she’s yawning all the way while taking the shot on the bed. She said that’s how she gets her tears welled up for the teary shot.
And finally.. the sleeping beauty shot that looked like how we all actually look when sleeping (and the look that no prince would kiss if chanced upon). AND the explosion of uncontainable laughter when shooting Shi Xiangyun’s character.