Exclusive interview|Liu Siyi, director of "The Story of Three Nobles": Fairy tales are greater than love

    "The Story of Three Nobles" is a bit strange movie. While most movies throughout the summer season are using heavy social issues to set off one TikTok clip after another and a storm of audience emotions, it is "light". It's almost out of place.

    Poster of "Three Noble Loves"

    Putting aside the story of "The Story of Three Nobles", objectively speaking, as the debut film of new director Liu Siyi, it does make some surprising attempts in the Chinese fantasy film genre. Retro costumes, scenery, and even the tone of the picture, the use of old-fashioned miniatures, and the scheduling of lenses and actors all work together to effectively present the director's personal aesthetics, collaging almost mixed style fragments and aesthetic elements into a complete In the world of images, it is difficult to believe that this kind of technical maturity and execution was produced by a new director.

    Back to the story level, this movie about true love and fairy tales, in today's era where "anti-love brain", "money is not necessary for love" and "fairy tales are all lies" are the current social trends, it simply reveals a clumsy and awkward attitude. After reading "Gu Yong", some people don't believe its innocence, some people think the love it describes is very unbelievable, but there are also some old-school "pure love warriors" who feel that their "hearts have been pinched hard".

    The publicity team seizes on the love label and hits hard, but most of the viewers who come in expecting to watch a sweet love movie will leave disappointed. In fact, in this story, "love" is a form that serves the presentation of "fairy tale", and "fairy tale" The warmth, innocence, and sentimentality it brings are similar to those of us who saw the sunset on the way to school in our childhood, said goodbye to a childhood playmate with pigtails forever, and stood on the dividing line between children and adults. This distant and fuzzy feeling may be the emotion that director Liu Siyi wants to capture and evoke again: We will bid farewell to fairy tales and question fairy tales, but we will still miss the comfort brought by fairy tales at a certain moment in our lives.

    Director Liu Siyi of "The Story of Three Nobles" takes a group photo with Hu Xianxu, who plays Wang Sangui, and Zheng Qianli, who plays Xiao Sangui

    During the interview, we mentioned "childhood" again and again. First of all, the movies, animations and songs she watched during her childhood formed a kind of indescribable yellowing memory image, which also became the source of inspiration and aesthetics for her creations; Secondly, she defines the best state in love as child-like sincerity between two people, removing all the common disguised temptations of urban love, the enemy advancing and the enemy retreating, and returning to unsuspecting attachment and trust. This seems to be a state that can only exist in fairy tales.

    But the softness exposed "without defense" is bound to face the risk of being hurt. "I used to have a good relationship with a girl in elementary school. I really liked her. One day when we were walking home, I told her: You are my best friend. She is a very calm girl. At that time, she looked My eyes were very subtle, and then she said: It's not that big of a deal, is it?" She recalled, "I'm very afraid of hearing others say to me, 'It's not that big of a deal'." Liu Siyi is as highly sensitive and delicate as most creators, but the loss caused by this sentence "It won't happen" may be able to reach a consensus with many people. In the adult world, overly excited exposure of emotions may be a disturbing thing. It’s embarrassing, but true love itself is also dangerous. “So in the movie, I set it up as a gamble, and I’m willing to admit defeat.”

    "The Love Story of Three Nobles" director Liu Siyi


    "This is not just a growth story about Sangui"

    The Paper: I have seen some doubts about this movie. Let’s talk about it first. For example, why did a female director tell this story from a male perspective? Why do the three heroines seem to serve the growth of the male protagonist?

    Liu Siyi: Choosing a male as the protagonist is related to my initial thoughts when I was suffering from insomnia, "It would be great if a prince climbed in through the window and kissed me to sleep." And Sangui may be the type of boy I like, the male version of "silly and sweet" (laughs), kind and innocent. This is not just a growth story about Sangui. Sangui received some help and guidance from the women he met, but at the same time, Sangui also brought changes and growth to them. Yuyu realizes what she really wants through Sangui. Sister Xia faces her regrets again through Sangui. Tingting realizes the injustice of the world because of Sangui and wants to resist this injustice.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    The Paper: The original version didn’t have the male narrator who told the story?

    Liu Siyi: In the previous version, only the singing of the gods opened the narrative of each chapter. The singing was the voice of the Paradise Casino. But besides the gods of the casino, I think there is another voice, the narrator of this story, because Gods are also included in this story.

    The Paper: It's a bit like "One Thousand and One Nights". The story also includes poems and arias from the perspective of the characters. These are also included in the entire text narrative. It is actually a pretty typical mythological narrative.

    Liu Siyi: Yes.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    The Paper: The cost of this film is very low for a fantasy film and a commercial film. Some reviews say it's "cheap Disney"?

    Liu Siyi: Maybe because of previous overseas film festivals, some foreign media would label the film "Oriental Disney" and people would use it for comparison. This label is quite shocking. In terms of cost, it is of course "cheaper" than Disney. Generally, new directors don’t touch fantasy in their debut films. The industry and market also need to trust the new director in the process, and it is normal for the cost to be low. Controlling costs is certainly important, but when I actually went to the New York Asian Film Festival, the judges rated the film very highly for its "well-made" production.

    There are some "clumsy" and handmade things in it, such as the miniature models of Baishi City and the underground black factory. It does save some cost of setting and special effects, but I think if I have a high budget, I I might still use miniatures, I think it would be cuter and fit in better with the overall story. The visual effects style is also not realistic, because I wanted the movie to have a cartoon feel.

    The Paper: What you call cartoon sense, do you mean those cartoons we watched when we were children? That kind of clay puppet and puppet animation, "The Thief", do you remember this one?

    Poster of "Three Noble Loves"

    Liu Siyi: I remember, yes, it is a bit primitive and has a childish feeling. Including the soundtrack, I also hope it has a cartoon feel. I think it should be childlike, cute, nostalgic, and should have a feeling of "the story happened in the past". Fairy tales always begin with "once upon a time".

    The Paper: When I saw the miniature models coming out, they looked particularly like "The Thief" and "Avanti". They were commonly used in old animations and movies of that era. This guy who makes miniatures, do they have a lot of work now?

    Liu Siyi: Of course there is not much work in film and television, so they have already gone to make real estate sandboxes.

    “Made into a very cute retro collage”

    The Paper: Will the actors see their familiarity with fairy tales in it?

    Liu Siyi: I think so. For example, they also like my scenes because they have a certain sense of familiarity. I feel like my childhood memories are those and they are pretty much the same.

    The Paper: Do you think the concept of "fairy tale" is different for everyone, or does it have a more recognized imagination and feeling?

    Liu Siyi: I think there is a relatively recognized feeling. For example, when talking about witches, you will think of witches' long nails and brooms. You know, the first time I went to visit the scene, I saw the abandoned western-style building with moonlight in the film, and the big tree outside was full of gas. Gen, I immediately thought: This is it, this is where the witches are, and I don’t know why.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    The Paper: Maybe it’s because the witch’s curse in many fairy tales starts with vines and thorns climbing over the castle. You are quite strong in the abstract ability of visual language or visual symbols.

    Liu Siyi: Compared to words, maybe. When I was writing scripts before, every time we talked about a scene, I would show Xiao Qiu (screenwriter Qiu Yujie) the reference pictures I found, the characters’ costumes, the scenes, and even what his movements were when he said this sentence. These pictures are needed to support it. There are even some plot settings that come first. In the movie, Sangui still wears the sweater from 15 years ago when he grows up, because I think that scene is very cute: a sweater that has shrunk and does not fit well is worn on him. After it becomes cute, I will think about whether this picture makes sense, and then I think this design is valid for the character, then I will use it in the movie.

    The Paper: So the "fairy tale feeling" you repeatedly talked about in various interviews and venture capital meetings is related to your childhood memories, and you also extracted certain aesthetic and creative elements from your childhood memories?

    Liu Siyi: Yes. You bring up a good point, where does aesthetics come from? At the end of the premiere that day, Teacher Zhang Ji said that this movie made him feel "new and old at the same time" and reminded him of many old movies, such as "The Wizard of Oz" and even Tsui Hark's movies. I felt so magical at the time. And, he said, the film opened his eyes to cinema itself.

    The Paper: Tsui Hark is indeed your favorite director.

    Liu Siyi: I think a lot of my aesthetics do come from childhood memories. For example, the character of Sister Xia, if you say she is a witch, is very Western, but I think she is also very similar to the "white-haired witch" in old Hong Kong movies.

    The Paper: Your clothing aesthetics may have something to do with your love of shopping for vintage clothes when you were in college. When it comes to "retro" in recent years, many domestic movies look to the fashion of Hong Kong and Taiwan in the 1980s and 1990s, but the "retro" of "The Story of Three Nobles" is more mixed.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    Liu Siyi: Yes, it’s really a mix and match. Yao Chen’s disco look actually has a bit of Akina Nakamori in her, can you tell?

    The Paper: Yes. Then the short hair style has the flavor of the Jazz Age of the early 20th century.

    Liu Siyi: "The Story of Three Nobles" does not have any specific and real age and geographical restrictions. It needs to be mixed and blended. So when choosing its style and clothing, I really just put what I like and think looks good. Put it all together.

    The Paper: You have a very strange ability, that is, you can organically integrate fragments of mixed styles and elements into a complete world, just like cutting out your favorite pictures from magazines and then collaging them together to make a very cute one. retro collage.

    Liu Siyi: Well, maybe because they are all things I like, they are more integrated.

    The Paper: Could you describe what integrity is?

    Liu Siyi: Well, I admit that there is no integrity. What I like is very complicated.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    The Paper: The problem caused by the mixture is that it may make it difficult for actors to find a performance method that fits a certain movie type. Will the actors in "The Story of Three Nobles" have any performance confusion?

    Liu Siyi: Actually, it’s okay, because I made a concept film when I was working on “Green Onion”. I showed the concept film to the actors. I think they liked and agreed with the script itself, and they had ideas about the performance style. They are very unified, with a sense of stage drama, a sense of cartoon combined with film and television performances. In terms of the overall performance, producer Dayao (Yao Chen) is also escorting the performance. But in addition to being a producer, she is also a starring role. She said she was a little uneasy at first, but she believed in my aesthetics and judgment. She told me at the time that she felt that I understood her beauty, not only her appearance, but also her performance. The beauty of it. I like her performance very much. She plays Sangui very humorously and cutely, and she plays Sister Xia's cunningness very charmingly.

    The Paper: What about the casting of Sangui? What makes you most satisfied with Hu Xianxu?

    Liu Siyi: Cute.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    "Love or not, kiss will tell"

    The Paper: As for the sentence on the poster, "Kiss will tell whether you love me or not." Don't you like it yourself? However, do you really believe this?

    Poster of "Three Noble Loves"

    Liu Siyi: Kissing is different when you love someone and when you don't love someone. Haven't you ever felt that when you kiss the one you love, you feel like the whole world disappears?

    The Paper: Physical feelings will make you believe that love is happening at this moment. But I don’t think I believe it.

    Liu Siyi: Your problem is that you think too much. In real life, love is difficult, and we cannot escape many problems. Usually when friends get together to talk about relationships, they will ask others: Do you think he likes me? Should I confess? How long should I reply to his WeChat message? Am I "losing money" by doing "this or that"? Should I forgive him for doing this or that? But why do we ask these questions? Are you looking for correctness?

    The Paper: When asking these questions, what we need is third-party evidence, which represents love in a certain social value evaluation system, or what kind of love is correct love. It seems that love has a methodology and a correct answer.

    Liu Siyi: Yes, we hope that our love conforms to the "correct" value, or the definition of "correct". In reality, love has to face many problems such as environment, trust, experience, etc., so we want a correct answer. Problems about love in reality make people tired, so I hope that in the movie, Tingting will not have these problems, and she will never think: Will Sangui still remember me in 15 years? Will he like other girls? Does he like the way I look now? She won't have these questions.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    The Paper: There seems to be only commas and periods in her love, but no question marks. So you hope that when everyone watches this movie, they put aside their questions about love, and you hope to go back to "the moment you kiss him, you know you love him." Wow, Director Liu is so romantic.

    Liu Siyi: It’s okay.

    The Paper: Can I understand that Tingting is a symbol of true love, which is lost the moment she finds it, and that the burning cloud represents parting and reunion happening at the same time?

    Liu Siyi: The moment you find it, you won’t necessarily lose it.

    The Paper: But what you are expressing now is loss, so why is it a tragedy? As a commercial film, from a market perspective, it may not have a particularly ideal ending?

    Liu Siyi: I believe that "true love" exists, but I may have doubts about "eternity". "Princes and princesses will live happily ever after." True love doesn’t have to last forever. Like you just said, true love may be lost, true love may be just a moment. If at the end, Sangui and Tingting live happily together forever, I have doubts about this. I don’t want there to be something in my story that I may not completely believe.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    The Paper: Are you still a little averse to "spill blood"? The boat scene at the end must have been handled in a way that would better arouse the audience's emotions, but was it intentional that you used a game-like approach to handle the tragedy?

    Liu Siyi: This has something to do with Tingting's character, and also because of her love for the three nobles. Seeing that Sangui was sad, she wanted to make him laugh. Tingting has the qualities that Xiaoqiu and I want to be: brave, righteous, determined, and chic. Xiaoqiu's emotional investment in Tingting is that she feels that she often talks too much when saying goodbye to someone.

    The Paper: So she appreciates those girls who are light-hearted in the face of sadness and separation, but can also deconstruct heaviness and sadness.

    Liu Siyi: Right. Your description is spot on. Moreover, Yuyu and Sister Xia are confused and regretful about love, but Tingting has no "problems" and she always "does it first" in everything she does. I think Tingting is super cool.

    The Paper: But there is a problem here. You have gone through the entire creative process, and of course you know your feelings for "Tingting". But for the audience who can only get to know her in a short time in the theater, is the relationship between her, her and Sangui not fully displayed?

    Liu Siyi: She disappeared in the middle of the script. In the early stage of creation, there were opinions from all sides on the script. When it came to the middle, she still had to meet Sangui, otherwise it would feel like: they haven't seen each other in 15 years, but they fell in love the moment they met. ? This is not believable. But I think their feelings are some kind of idealized projection, and if we meet them in the middle, I think it becomes too "believable". It is precisely because they have not seen each other for so long that they still miss each other, which is even more valuable.

    “Cute and innocent, very beautiful and rare in my eyes​​​​​​”

    The Paper: The so-called believable love means the ups and downs of love, ambiguity, tug-of-war, quarrels, trivial matters... This is what everyone has experienced, so it is believable, but this kind of believability does not seem to be the love in fairy tales. Love is all love at first sight, there is no process. The prince saw Snow White's "corpse" and fell in love with her. If you think about it, how scary this is in reality.

    Liu Siyi: Yuyu and Sister Xia should have those processes, but I don’t think it’s possible for Tingting. She has to have something unbelievable, because true love is ideal. Someone once asked me why Tingting liked Sangui, and I said it was because he was cute. Cuteness and innocence are very beautiful and rare in my eyes, and they are all precious to this world.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    The Paper: You value this innocence very much.

    Liu Siyi: There is a detail in the movie. Every time Tingting smiles, Sangui will laugh too, or whenever Sangui smiles, Tingting will also laugh. We have a common experience. You and the person you love will have a strong empathy. It seems that the body and soul of the lover are really connected somewhere.

    The Paper: Regarding the understanding of love, I remember we talked before. In your opinion, good love should have a child-like "playmate" feeling. From my observation of you, you really like the way two people return to a childlike, naive, and sincere state in love.

    Liu Siyi: Yes.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    The Paper: So you would regard love as a fairy tale, it should have something childish. I have always thought that the phrase "you can get love only if you believe in love" is chicken soup. But if you think about it carefully, maybe when you believe in love, you will exude an aura similar to that of a child: sincere, curious, enthusiastic, and not afraid of getting hurt. Be willing to explore and the world will give you the same thing back.

    Liu Siyi: I also wonder, why do I like the state of being a child so much? Is it because I was too lonely in my childhood? I just thought about it. I had a good relationship with a girl in elementary school. I really liked her. One day when we were walking home, I told her: You are my best friend. She is a very calm girl. She looked at me very delicately at that time, and then she said: Isn't that true?

    To me, this sentence is quite hurtful. I think the emotion I expressed is true, so why wouldn’t it be true? Why didn't she believe it. So much so that I didn't dare to express my love anymore. I felt that if I expressed it, others wouldn't believe it. I was afraid of hearing others say "no way" again. I think I'm a bit awkward at expressing emotions, and I don't know if I'm trying to use this movie to heal that part of myself.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    The Paper: Using a movie to heal one’s childhood is like, “It’s not like that.” It seems like it’s not like that, but I quite understand this feeling. After leaving childhood, everyone becomes more and more cautious about expressing emotions. Afraid of appearing clumsy and embarrassing when expressing strong feelings, we hope that we are adults enough to be comfortable and effortless in relationships.

    Liu Siyi: I think what I fear most is that others won’t believe me if I say it.

    The Paper: What I may be afraid of is that if I express my opinions, the other party will respond with ridicule or silence.

    Liu Siyi: What is the difference between "disbelief" and "mockery"?

    The Paper: The difference is that "mockery" is: he believed it, but he scoffed. You show your sincerity, but this thing is not only unimportant to the other person, but also something that can be trampled on and discarded. This is why love is a "terrible thing" to me.

    Liu Siyi: Love is inherently "terrible", so I set it up as a gamble in the movie, and I am willing to accept defeat.

    "It is not only realistic themes that can pay attention to the times and reality​​​​​​"

    The Paper: I saw a critic of "The Love of Three Nobles" who said "I don't believe in the beauty in the movie" and believed that "the hope in the movie does not match the cruelty of reality." I think he was expecting something that faced reality. It has always been a very clear and concise saying that literary and artistic creators should pay attention to the times and reality. Do you feel a sense of responsibility to "reflect the current era of recording"?

    Liu Siyi: Realistic themes are not the only ones that can pay attention to the times and reality. I may have a sense of responsibility to continue making fantasy movies, maybe because after seven years of experiencing "The Story of Three Nobles", I know how difficult this genre is. For example, when Xuanfa got "The Story of Three Nobles", he didn't know what to do at first because there were very few movies in this genre, so I hope that I can at least make some contribution to enriching this genre.

    Stills of "The Love Story of Three Nobles"

    The Paper: But being close to reality in creation means that it is easier for you to resonate and connect with the audience. Because that will be a story they are familiar with or even experiencing. But if your expression is to build your own small world, then you can only resonate with the audience aesthetically through highly abstract emotional experiences, which is actually more difficult.

    Liu Siyi: I saw a sentence in a review of a cartoon, "Animation is amazing. It not only makes us believe that the protagonist is a 'person' with real feelings, but also makes us believe that he can break like ceramics when he is desperate." Thousands of pieces." This is my goal, to do this in the constructed world, in the live-action fantasy film genre.

    The Paper: So your creation is only subject to your preferences. Do you think this story is cute or that thing is good-looking?

    Liu Siyi: Doesn’t everyone’s creations have this kind of part?

    The Paper: I feel that many of today's creations serve to express a certain theme, rather than necessarily being the crystallization of personal thinking and aesthetics. If someone told you that the theme of "The Story of Three Nobles" is love, or "what is true love", would you accept such a summary?

    Liu Siyi: I don’t accept the second one, but I accept the first one. I don't want to give others a definition of love. I don't want to preach what "true love" is, what you learn from it, and what you reflect on. And I think it’s totally fine if you watch this movie and don’t believe in true love. Such love is indeed unlikely to exist in real life, but it is established in the story, and it is idealized. I even think that in fact, "fairy tale" is greater than "love" in "The Story of Three Nobles", but when they were doing the promotion, they felt that the "love" type must be the first one to do, but for me personally For me, fairy tales are more important.


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