Cinematic writing style using imagery in Glory of yore by Nguyen Tuan

Abstract. Nguyen Tuan (1910-1987) was an outstanding author of the national literature, influenced by various cultures and well-known with a powerful creative capability. His works assemble the quintessence of Eastern and Western cultures, expressing a specific and unique writing style - a typical example of creativity and talent. This article is a brief observation of Nguyen Tuan’s imagery in Glory of yore collection, from the cinematic point of view, focusing on the setting, camera angle, action and pace.

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HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1067.2017-0029 Social Sci., 2017, Vol. 62, Iss. 5, pp. 22-30 This paper is available online at CINEMATIC WRITING STYLE USING IMAGERY IN GLORY OF YORE BY NGUYEN TUAN Le Hai Anh University of Education, Vietnam National University Abstract. Nguyen Tuan (1910-1987) was an outstanding author of the national literature, influenced by various cultures and well-known with a powerful creative capability. His works assemble the quintessence of Eastern and Western cultures, expressing a specific and unique writing style - a typical example of creativity and talent. This article is a brief observation of Nguyen Tuan’s imagery inGlory of yore collection, from the cinematic point of view, focusing on the setting, camera angle, action and pace. Keywords: Nguyen Tuan, writing style, imagery, cinematography, Glory of yore. 1. Introduction Nguyen Tuan was a great writer of the country’s literature. Born in a chaotic and extremely volatile period of time of the nation, but he remained chivalrous and preserved all characteristics of a patriotic scholar. He was a typical example of talented creative writer influenced by different cultural sources with a strong creating capability. Works by Nguyen Tuan feature the finest of Eastern and Western cultures, having a special and unique style, as he once declared “I do it my own way”. Nguyen Tuan was not only an author, but also an actor, a sharp painting and music critic with a profound and deep knowledge of cinematography, theatre, painting, music and sculpture... In a number of his works, Nguyen Tuan combined his strong understandings of not only literature but also different other art fields to design and organize the setting of the story. Literary critic Phan Ngoc has commented “Nguyen Tuan is the first author who has created a particular writing technique in literature”. Influenced by the “art for art only” school of thought inspired by Western romanticism, Nguyen Tuan spent his entire life in search for beauty, discovering deeply the beauty of nature and humanity, establishing his own talented and knowledgeable mark in the literature via all of his used genres. This article is a brief observation of Nguyen Tuan’s writing style to create a powerful imagery in Glory of yore collection (published in journals and newspapers in 1939, printed as a collection in 1940) from a cinematography point of view. Received date: 10/1/2017. Published date: 1/5/2017. Contact: Le Hai Anh, e-mail: lehaianhsphn@gmail.com 22 Cinematic writing style using imagery in Glory of yore by Nguyen Tuan 2. Content Nguyen Tuan was acting in the first movie of Vietnamese cinematography “the ghost field” and he was praised as “talented” for the role. In another movie Dau - the woman, he was playing the role of the head of a village, and was remarked as “excellent acting”. He also had the ability to observe and focus on the details of an object and the surrounding world, therefore he owned a deep and wise knowledge of cinematography, and his words became a powerful camera to create lively frames and sceneries. Reading a work of him gives readers the aftermath feeling and emotion similarly to watching a movie. Typical characteristics of cinematography are varied. In Nguyen Tuan’s works, especially in Glory of yore, the most outstanding cinematic features of the imagery are: camera’s point of view, setting, camera angle, action and pace. 2.1. Camera position and angle in Glory of Yore In Glory of yore, Nguyen Tuan described facts and life with a negative view. However, different from other authors of the same period of time such as Ngo Tat To, Nam Cao, Nguyen Cong Hoan. . . , in Nguyen Tuan’s opinion, the ugly society itself did not allow beauty to exist and grow. Nguyen Tuan actually “revitalized and visualized the past”, because the past had been beautiful and vivid, had been glory of yore and the author put himself and his point of view into a unique, fix position in the past. Therefore, even challenged by different angles, far or near, below or above, the sceneries always had a “nostalgic ambiance”, and human and life were always viewed through a talented eye. Characters in Nguyen Tuan’s works, no matter who they were, were always described by Nguyen Tuan as genius human and artists. Master of language Nguyen Tuan worked as a movie director, he casted specifically and successfully excellent actors and actresses for the main roles in his movies. And during the filming process, “the director” always used the best camera position and angles to reveal and highlight the talented artistic features of the characters. In The ceramic teapots, A cup of tea in the early morning mist, Nguyen Tuan wrote about the joy of drinking tea. With his point of view which is full of talent and knowledge, the writer had a very unique way to describe the process of preparing and drinking tea and uplifted it to the level of tea ceremony. Reading A cup of tea in the early morning mist, readers can perceive the work as watching a movie about the process of preparing one or two cup of tea at sunrise of an elderly man named Am. It was as if the author was sitting right opposite Mr. Am to “film” him preparing tea very carefully, focusing on each and every step and examining all the meticulous requirements for making and drinking tea. Enjoying tea was no longer a simple daily joy, it became a tea ceremony. By a direct filming angle, Mr. Am appeared as an artist of tea and a philosopher “A good tea pot has a poetic scent and wisdom taste”. With a nostalgic point of view in combination with selected filming angles, Nguyen Tuan revitalized the former beautiful art of drinking tea: how to select the best tea, water, teapot, tea cup, how to make tea, how to create the ambiance for drinking tea. Concurrently, the author described the tea artists - who had their heart for tea ceremony and dared to sacrifice for the life beauty. In The ceramic teapots, readers can catch far-sighted views from the author’s observing point. Viewing from a high position (a pagoda’s gate) then enlarging the view 23 Le Hai Anh further embraces a vast and boundless scenery to understand objects and phenomena. Hence, interesting idea connection came “the pot of water was rocking and shaking, water drops on the path formed a line of dark stars” [16]. The old housekeeper was carrying water on his shoulders, water drops were viewed as stars sowed on the land. The water stars lined up from Doi Mai pagoda on a sandy and dusty walking path connecting with the human normal life. It was possible that the stars actually enlightened life. The camera position gives readers a sense of poetry, also implies a high respect for an ordinary worker doing his job, while revealing the meticulousness of a duty that was thought to be simple: choosing water for tea making. The “camera angle” then zoomed in gradually, finally, a close-up frame of elderly man Sau selling his invaluable teapots in the flea market. Life was no longer carefree for him, became tightening for him but his passion for tea possibly remained the same. The opening scene of Game of poetry scene was a close-up view at home of Mr. Kinh Lich. The lens of “cinematographer” Nguyen Tuan focused intensely on this scene to capture in very details every image and movement of people and objects. Amateur couple, the husband Pho Su sent poem so the playing villagers can reply his poem during the game, the wife Mong Lien lovingly leaned on the husband. She was standing out with her red silky coat while contributing to the game by her singing and dancing, among all of “poetry addicts” who were enjoyed the game to the highest level. Candle light were shimmering, scent of lilies was pervading, making the whole scene more romantic and poetic. “Poetry casting” was written as a slow motioned film with various “angles”. Sometimes they were narrowed and close-up shots to visual more clearly the silhouette of the father Mr. Phu and his son in their cold house. At times, the camera angle extended to a wide view, or the filming direction was from a low point upward. While in another scene, the “camera” was scanning horizontally to catch a beautiful and romantic panorama view of the moon on 14th night of the lunar month and capture a dreaming red and black night on the autumn river, where people were casting their poems. Perhaps to write about an artistic game of casting poems, the writer examined it in many directions to perceive its profound beauty. The poem casting game was organized by the elderly man Mom (he was a bachelor of letters), and the game was entertained withMs. Tu playingmusic instrument. They were all talented, decent and “would be a family’s pride” people. Highlighting and shading techniques also escalated the cinematographic effects for the story. The image of Ms. Tu was either real or imaginary at the beginning and the end of the story also gave readers feeling that the whole tale was blurry and surreal, positioning “Poetry casting” into a far-away, imaginary land. An aftertaste of nostalgia, regret and melancholy was lingering in the readers. In both Game of poetry and Poetry casting, after finding ad releasing a good word, both the loser and the winner recited the poem with a great joy. With a nostalgic temporal point of view, the close-up and wide shots all had a misty, romantic ambiance to set up spatial condition for poetic hobbies. Game of poetry and Poetry casting viewed from a social critical opinion can be a gamble issue using poems but through Nguyen Tuan’s description, readers could enjoy and immerse themselves into the poetic atmosphere of the joy of poetry. Because Nguyen Tuan selected interesting observing positions and viewing angles to present the games as romantic and attractive. The pleasure of poetry in Nguyen Tuan’s works is often associated with flowers. In Game of poetry, the ambiance was romantically decorated by the appearance and 24 Cinematic writing style using imagery in Glory of yore by Nguyen Tuan fragrance of lilies, while in The fragrance of river stones, the scene of reading and discussing about poems was located in an orchid garden - the flowers brought a poetic sense to enrich the Vietnamese culture of literature. The nostalgic view of a vintage life was pictured in a way the family of elderly man Kep celebrating the lunar New Year. In this complete image, the meticulousness in preparing and honoring orchid flower was highlighted- one of the four most spiritually valuable flowers, Mr. Kep has showed his character as a decent gentleman. Also in a mid-way and close-up shot of a celebration, similarly to The fragrance of river stones, the family of scholar Hai in A late autumn scene appeared with the hobby and joy of making lanterns for the children to play in mid-autumn festival in a warm, gathering, and full of traditional culture atmosphere - the common impression in the whole Glory of yore collection. Here, it was also recognizable that art is one of the heritages over several generations of elderly man Thuong. A nostalgic and full of personality character was Mr. Hai, Nguyen Tuan opened up his “camera angle” to follow and praise the carefree and artistic lifestyle. Mr. Hai- the scholar was an image of Nguyen Tuan himself. Nguyen Tuan had a respect for the scholars of the old, former Han dynasty influenced literature- the people who preserved their ethic, their heart properly. The respect remained in an elegant way, not too close or rude. Literature was kept in a safe territory. This was also an opinion in line with the whole Glory of yore scheme. This also revealed the author’s life philosophy to against the real suffocating life at his period of time. Beautiful shots of decent pleasures covered in a melancholic and nostalgic mist. These pleasures were developed to become arts; readers can understand more the spiritual beauty of artistic passion. In a vintage atmosphere, by examining people and objects from the inside and outside, Nguyen Tuan built up a whole set of characters that had a heart for art, who loved life beauty, who remained decent honorable, greed-free human beings. Person by person, name by name, character by character. . . they all brought back the old-day elegant culture. The set of three characters Cai Xanh, Ly Van, Pho Kinh in Pencil throwing, viewed from the past and from innermost feelings, Nguyen Tuan made them “street heroes”. The scene of acting, playing and throwing the pledges (called “pencils” by the characters) of these unique and legendary street figures was made as in an action film, yet the motions were silky and smooth recorded by a “master of cinematography”. The scene was poetic and had a historical sense, readers would relate to Yen The revolution or modern Luong Son Bac heroes of XX century. “The revenge” was written as a “thriller” of Ha Nam province’s examination site in the year of Mau Ngo. The linguistic director opened his camera widely to capture the complete view. The camera took turns: using wide lens to record the boundless water, pointing upward to see the strange color of the sky, or close-up focusing to have the most horrendous, thrilling and ghostly scene of the Dau Xu brothers revenged by the spirit of their father’s pretty mistress. The camera sometimes pointed into Ms. Phuong’s small shop. . . The variation in camera angles in combination with diverse viewing points created a unique ambiance, set apart from previous described examination sites which had been written about by Tu Xuong, Nguyen Khuyen or in Tent and bamboo bed by Ngo Tat To. Cinematographic imagery also composed by the “overlay” technique or well-carried out “mirroring” technique. 25 Le Hai Anh Observation point and camera angle in On Tan mountain peak were interesting and special. Every scene was captured by a blurry lens. Sometimes it was close, sometimes it was a far view. The directions were also diverse: filming from below upward or above downward. These techniques made readers immerse themselves into following, exploring the mysterious secrets of On Tan mountain peak. The spiritual world was revealed by a fanciful method, Nguyen Tuan revitalized trees and plants, rocks and stones, birds giving the place an interesting and extraordinary air. When the marvelous first layer was removed, the facts were revealed such as the flood mentioned at the beginning of the story. However, the aftertaste remained with the readers would be the beauty of an Eden. However, this beauty belonged to a mysterious, unexplainable world. Traveling in this fairytale world, unleashing his imagination, Nguyen Tuan’s opinion was similar to Pluto’s while also remaining deeply passionate about his homeland and country. The “submerged part of an iceberg” in Nguyen Tuan’s works was always the love for his nation and people. 2.2. Movement and pace in Glory of yore Nguyen Tuan with experiences of an actor, revitalized his works, made them real and lively by cinematography techniques: not only selecting observation positions and creative angles but also skillfully mastering motions and pace bringing rhythm and melody to readers. Professor Do Duc Hieu has remarked Glory of yore can be perceived as a poem, a poem with a powerful and also gentle rhythms alternately, a poem with endless torments, powerful inspirations, gently developing to become massive waves or an opaque mist. Glory of yore has a poetic sense of an eventful and chaotic period of time in the history”... His works of pure nature, sophisticated and elegant pleasures appeared to be attractive to readers because of the meticulousness and carefulness in writing, creating a slow, tender motion and pace. That evoked the ancient and reminiscent rhythm yet left several silent moments for readers to think about people, about life. In A cup of tea in the early morning mist, in the blurry and unreal scene, we could catch the movement of burning charcoal and fire. These movements were gentle and silent. The only sound we could hear was from the crackling fire, the fire itself was sketching an image of “vertical and horizontal, twisted and zigzag lines”. When the charcoal was burning at the highest level, the fire was “dancing around”, or “swaying up and down”. When burning approached the end of the process, the coal “burst out a dry, soft and sharp sound” and the left over small blaze deceased. The movement of fire was an “artful sophisticated motion”, which makes us think about people with unlucky fate with “splendor and sudden extinguishment”. The charcoals lived a mineral life full of passion, dedicating for the passion of Mr. Am. They became “artistic drops secretly flowing in his soul, being aware by him only”. . . This slow and lingering pace brought a relaxing feeling in the early morning. The fragrance of river stones and A late autumn scene had the temporal ambiance of a ceremony. They had a regular tempo of duties that need meticulousness, carefulness and skillfulness in preparation for the lunar New Year, or mid-autumn festival. The relaxing, lingering and tranquil rhythm came from not only the movements but also the sounds: conversations of poems and stories, sound of chewing snack, fresh and celebrating tone of people reciting poems after a shot of rice vodka. . . 26 Cinematic writing style using imagery in Glory of yore by Nguyen Tuan The calm and peaceful rhythm was not only captivating to the old housekeeper but also adding a poetic sense for the “movie” to fascinate readers. In “A late autumn scene”, the very beginning page described the smooth movement of the storytelling voice in combination with “poetic lullabies” and poetic conversations. The part about making a lantern themed “King Ngo and Tay Thi - the beauty” was in very details and revealed the bustling activities of the mid-autumn festival. Watching people playing and telling stories by lanterns brought back the old day festive atmosphere. All of these features made A late autumn scene melancholic, revitalizing all old memories in a frame, the memories once-upon-a-time beauty. The frame also had a melody along with a gentle tempo, like a lullaby bringing readers back to their sweet childhood. Another elegant literary pleasure but set up at the midnight time point was “Letters of a prisoner on death row”. The story had two sections describing the situations at midnight. The first part was about emotions and thoughts of the prison warden about the coming execution of a talented, genius person he had been admiring for a very long time. “The prison officer pulled a rod from the sword holder, walked into the dark prison. At the fainted old desk, a small candle lit up a thoughtful face. The warden touched his head in a worrying way. The sound of drum from next mansion reminded him about time of the night (. . . ). In a prison, inmates and officers lived with each other in a harsh, dishonest manner; the gentleness, knowledge and thoughtful understanding about people, the respect for good people of the prison warden was a pure, fresh note in a messy, chaotic piece of music”. The slow motions, lingering pace with a slow tempo were an intention of the “camera” movement; all came from the “director” to describe in very details of every scene. Firstly, about human: The “camera” followed every single moves of the prison officer, from pulling the rod, waving it and walking away, followed by the act the warden touching his head when he was in deep thinking. But the “director” left a gap before continuing with the warden looking up his head in a pitiful way and fixing the candle. The gap was filled with the dark air of the prison. In the next part: the scene has sound but still sound was representing the silence.