Doan Minh Phuong

Rencontre avec la co-réalisatrice de Bride of Silence, une des bonnes surprises du festival de Deauville. Un film que les participants n’ont peut-être pas eu la curiosité de découvrir. Ce beau film n’est pas le fruit du hasard, mais le résultat d’un travail de longue haleine. Compte-rendu dans la langue de Shakespeare...

Sancho : Can you tell us how this movie came to be ?

Doan Minh Phuong : First, it was an idea for a book ten years ago. I had a draft of the whole story and then I started writting. I had just finished one third of it, and couldn’t go on because the characters in my story didn’t fit much. And there was too much psychoanalysis. I had like, the film in my mind first.

Is this story a personal one, or is it born from a legend ?

Half of the story is from my own, the other from women I know of different generations. It’s a "collective personal story”.

It’s almost fantastic. At the beginning of the movie the main character has all these drawings of what is going to happen to her. Even if she escapes death and the punishment for her children, we know that she is going to be condemned.

It has something very Asian about it, a kind of belief in fate. But you still live your life. It’s not something that must happen to you because somebody up there decided it that way, but because it’s already in your heart, in your mind. When the others girls didn’t go out of the village because it was forbiden, she went out for now reason. She wants to see something else. She wants to do something her father should not know, because the father must know everything. And it’s not something she learnt from anywhere, it’s just inside her heart.

Has the situation of the women in Vietnam today changed a lot compared to what you tell in your story ?

If you look superficialy, it has changed a lot because of the French time and the American war. But if you look underneath, it hasn’t changed. This is one of the reasons why I made the film. Freedom is often really misunderstood. Women should be treated like men. But I think, it’s too far away. We need some basic things, some privacy. I’m glad I have my own dreams and life. You get a sense that your life belongs to you, and you are ready to pay any price for that.

Do you think the story could have been the same, if the child had been a girl and not a boy ? It seems that she belonged to the men who rescued her, her son, but she never exists for herself.

Her story is not told by herself, but by men. I think that it’s the intention that she belongs to men, but inside she belongs to herself. She keeps silent. Actually, we never hear one word from her.

The main characters are ashamed of what they have done. Because they lie to the son to what has happened to his mother ?

Definitely, yes.

Are the men in Vietnam ashamed of the condition of women ?

I don’t think I should answer that question ! [rires]

In your impression ?

I do think everybody has a heart and you can’t answer generaly. It’s part of being male : "I have a woman and she has to do things for me", and this and that. But if they listen to their heart, they do sometimes find love. And one of the first conditions of love is that you see your partner as being like you.

How did you find this beautiful scenery everywhere ? It seems that you were all alone shooting this picture ?

We shot completly on location in the northern part of Vietnam. Near the Chinese border for the big river and the wilderness when they escaped. And the village is a quiet place near Hanoï. We spent a lot of years looking for locations, because we didn’t have enough money to set up the film. We had to find the right set in nature. Luckily, I’m also the scriptwriter, so I adapted the story to the scenery. For example, in my first story the bride was not from a potery village. And then we found a village absolutly beautiful and authentic. So we traded the character for a girl from a family who make potery.

Like we said, the story is almost fantastic, it’s difficult to know when the story takes place.

We could say it’s about 200 hundreds years ago.

Shooting the movie must have been a kind of return to nature. Did the actors master all the crafts they are shown to use ?

We learned how to walk without shoes and in a less raffined way than we do today. We got the masters to teach some of their craft. The actors did some little things of what you see in the movie, like the toys.

You have adapted the rythm of the movie on the rythm of the life of this nature.

You have the storyline, but then you have to adapt it to the environment, to the location.

Is it hard for a woman filmaker in Vietnam to have such a movie finalized ?

It’s hard to start. You have to work twice as hard.

Was the movie shown in Vietnam ?

No, we don’t have the permission yet.

The colors in your film are not very bright, they are all very toned down.

We used for the whole film a very light filter. I don’t remember who did it for the time, but it was a French director who used women’s stocking to get this effect. We wanted to give it a touch of age and time. With my brother, my co-director, who is in charge of the photography, we didn’t want to people to come too close emotionnally to the bride. We didn’t want to abuse people’s emotions. That’s also why we decided to have these kinds of colors.

It’s symbolic, it’s a woman’s film shot through women’s stockings !

- Lire aussi l’article de Kizushii sur Bride of Silence.

Entretien réalisé le samedi 12 mars lors de la 7ème édition du Festival du film asiatique de Deauville.

"Half of the story is from my own, the other from women I know of different generations. Bride of Silence is a ’collective personal story’."