Movies adapted from Vietnamese literature suffer losses

By Mai Nhat   May 2, 2021 | 08:06 pm PT
Movies adapted from Vietnamese literature suffer losses
A still from "Kieu". Photo by Hong Vi.
Many films adapted from classic literary works have failed miserably with audiences and critics panning them for their quality rather than failure to stick to the original.

‘Kieu’, the latest movie adaption of an iconic literary work, ‘The Tale of Kieu’, ran in cinemas for 18 days before being taken off and earned of just VND2.7 billion ($117,480), according to the Vietnam Box Office.

It reportedly cost VND30 billion to make.

At the end of February, ‘Kieu @’ starring Phan Thi Mo and Cao Thai Ha was released and suffered the same fate. It was described by some as "catastrophic."

After two months in theaters, it earned a fraction of its investment.

In January, ‘Cau Vang’, a movie based on a book by the late Nam Cao, author of renowned short story ‘Lao Hac,’ collected more than VND3.6 billion after being made on a budget of several tens of billions of dong (VND1 billion=$43,000).

All of them received negative feedback, with many viewers believing they ruined the original literature.

‘Kieu’, directed by Mai Thu Huyen, focuses on a love triangle between three main characters, Thuy Kieu, Thuc Sinh and Hoan Thu, instead of staying loyal to the original story.

The film runs for a duration of 90 minutes, has a script filled with holes, makes improper transitions, and unsatisfactory character arcs, according to critics.

A reader named Jumazikl commented on VnExpress: "The director turns a classic literary work into a combination of entertainment such as a chorus film, ghost film, 18+ film, and a love triangle, torturing viewers.

"There aren't many beautiful images to honor the beauty of Kieu, the main character, either."

‘Cau Vang’ was criticized for its script, unsuccessful portrayal of social context and incoherent storyline.

When criticized by audiences, the producers claim they are just "inspired" by the original work.

The director of ‘Kieu’ expected the film to be controversial. She said the film stays loyal to the original story, but considering its limited run time, she focused on a love triangle in the epic. "We focused on portraying characters rather than the whole story."

Vu Thuy, director of ‘Cau Vang,’ said the film was scripted by his father-in-law, the late artist Bui Cuong, and not completely loyal to the original.

"[But] I think the film retains the original spirit and in fact was approved by author Nam Cao's oldest daughter. We did not focus on poverty in the 1940s but on moral elements."

Chau Quang Phuoc, a former theater media manager, said whether a film is based entirely on or adapted from a literary work, it must first be good.

An adaptation needs to be an independent creative work with a life of its own in terms of both technical aspects and content, he said, pointing out there have been many movies that were not faithful to the original work but still resonated with viewers.

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