After days of waiting, on the evening of March 5, audiences and aficionados finally got to enjoy the first chronicle historical film series of Vietnam, Phượng Khấu (international name: Emperor’s Gift). The series was made by young director Huỳnh Tuấn Anh, and the film crew recreated anecdotes in the “mysterious secrets” of the Court of Emperor Thiệu Trị, the third emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty.
“Phượng Khấu” is defined as the Queen’s robe button engraved with an image of a phoenix for áo Nhật Bình. In the ancient royal rituals of the Nguyen feudal dynasty, “Phượng Khấu” and “Nhật Bình” were two items representing the powers, prestige and love of the woman who was favoured by the Emperor in the concubines of Nguyễn Dynasty. Therefore, any concubine who was granted “Phượng Khấu” and “Nhật Bình” by the Emperor would be favourably devoted, which means having the highest power in all the “Seventy-two Concubines” of the old harem.
“Phượng Khấu” is considered to be the first Vietnamese film that exploits the “deep secrets” related to the palaces’ life. They are reconstructed through the anecdotes and stories surrounding the life of Honoured Consort Phạm Hiệu Nguyệt (also Từ Dụ Dowager Empress). When becoming the concubine of Prince Miên Tông (who later become Emperor Thiệu Trị), Hiệu Nguyệt received a lot of love, affection, but also jealousy and envy. After the death of her daughter Uyên Ý, Hiệu Nguyệt gradually realized the ungratefulness, selfishness of the people in the Imperial family. After becoming a concubine of the Emperor, Hiệu Nguyệt still sought ways to avoid the dark conspiracies, keep her good nature, and teach her two children, Tĩnh Hảo and Hồng Nhậm. But the dark side itself did not let her go, causing her to take a leap and learn how to protect herself. In the end, Hiệu Nguyệt overcame all the hatred in the royal court, bringing her son- Hồng Nhậm to the throne. Hiệu Nguyệt became the most powerful woman of the Nguyen Dynasty for more than 60 years.
The young director Huỳnh Tuấn Anh decided to choose to make a film on the most challenging topic in Vietnam. This decision stemmed from his pride for the nation. He said: “Vietnamese culture and history already have billions of good stories, so why don’t we exploit them?! Although there are still shortcomings, incomplete details and lack of sharpness, it is still better to do something rather than doing nothing!”
The film gathers veteran artists who are admired by many generations of audiences such as People’s Artist Hồng Vân, Meritorious Artist Thành Lộc, Meritorious Artist Tuyết Thu, Meritorious Artist Lê Thiện, Artist Hồng Đào, etc. Also, it has the participation of the young actors created an interference between generations of actors, making “Phượng Khấu” not only good in content but also creative in acting, becoming the most worth watching Vietnamese movies in early 2020.
Besides, the costumes in the series are also meticulously and thoughtfully cared to such detail. It is another plus that attracts the audience of “Phượng Khấu”. Instead of using the available costumes from the stage productions, the crew was ready to invest in renewing more than 300 ancient costumes under the Nguyễn Dynasty to serve the film. According to director Huỳnh Tuấn Anh, the costume investment for the film is up to 35% of the entire project cost. Besides, he shared that if each episode estimated was 2 billion VND, the total expense of the whole first season of Phượng Khấu was about 12 billion VND, 35% of which was accounting for costumes.
Phượng Khấu consists of 3 seasons, each with 6 45- minute long episodes. It will be broadcasted free on the POPS entertainment application. The film wishes to bring a fresh perspective on the stories and anecdotes about the court of Emperor Thiệu Trị, the third king of Vietnam’s last feudal dynasty – the Nguyen Dynasty. Through the film, the image of gentle, tolerant and generous Dowager Empress Từ Dụ Phạm Hiệu Nguyệt will be depicted standing out among the gossips, cunning intrigues and endless competition for the powers and benefits in the Harem.
This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt