Chrysanthemums, My Love

 
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by Elise Shick
 

A love complication between two best friends (Rui and Xian), Jacky, Rui’s cat and the dog in the opposite house.

Illustration by Low Pey Sien

 

My Philosophy of Love

I always believe that love is universal and intangible. Love is the same no matter we apply it to living or non-living creatures. Genuine love comes from someone who can love selflessly and someone who can spread the love to others without asking anything in return. Genuine love also comes from someone who loves the same way regardless sex, gender, race, or state of existence. The love complication between Jacky, Xian, Rui, her cat and the dog in the opposite house depicts that love is often restricted when human beings segregate it into different categories. This kind of restriction hinder someone from feeling the purest form of love.

Filmmaking Process

When I received the films from previous directors, I tried to connect pieces of puzzles together. The characters and storylines were scattered around here and there. Therefore, the only thing in my mind was to connect these discrete characters and stories together using a subtle way before I started writing the script. 

In Jacky’s film, there was no explanation between the relationship between Rui and Jacky in the KFC but there must be a past between these two characters when Rui drank the water that Jacky poured for her. So I imagined that Jacky must know Rui for a long time that was why she knew that the water was poured by Jacky and drank it.

In Pey Sien’s part, a sense of intimacy was so strongly felt in the conversation over the phone between Jacky and Xian. I imagined that they must know each other not long ago and were still head over heels in love. 

In Jen’s film, Jacky overcame his fear of driving and drove through a suffocating tunnel to go looking for Xian in Kuantan. It wasn’t stated where Jacky was heading to and Kuantan was the first thing that popped up in my mind. 

Of course, I was very interested in building a relationship between Rui and Xian with Jacky as the anchor that pulled those two characters together. So I started by building suspense and revealing clues little by little about their love triangle in the conversation between Rui and Xian at the beach. 

How do I show that the two complete strangers in the film were actually old friends? The beach is the most important part. That was why I wanted to employ the beach to contextualize the backstory and intimate relationship between Rui and Xian. People have attachment to a space. The beach was a vital part of it. On the other side, I employed the conversation between Rui and Xian to slowly unveil their past and the promise they had for each other. 

My film could only work by creating a conflict and building a special dynamic between the three characters: Rui was in love with Xian. Xian used to love Rui. Jacky gave the two of them a lot of care and attention at the same time but he mistook care for love. Both Rui and Xian were confused with their feelings towards Jacky. 

In between, I wanted to show that human beings complicate love by inserting chrysanthemums and cats into the storyline. I wanted to show that the core of love is the same no matter we apply it to plants, animals, objects or human beings.

The difference of love in each of these categories should be abolished because we can only understand what is love by loving selflessly without limiting ourselves within the absolute definitions of love given by the society and norms.

 

It was never easy to direct friends. When the conversation between Rui and Xian on the beach ended, Isyraqi and Jacky had fun in tucking their shirts in and kicking sand at each other.

 
 Flashback of the Rui and Xian’s old day before meeting Jacky. I had no idea what were they talking about but they laughed so naturally.

Flashback of the Rui and Xian’s old day before meeting Jacky. I had no idea what were they talking about but they laughed so naturally.

 

In the shop that was selling salted fish (Kuantan is famous for its salted fish), I was filming Jacky saying his monologue as the ending of my film. We also borrowed power sockets from the boss to charge the camera batteries so I took as long as possible to film Jacky. 

 

Original Script:

 

Afterthoughts

The process of scriptwriting was really interesting because I could explore all kinds of possibilities to put my intangible philosophy love to paper. But the most difficult part was to put these words on paper to screen and this was the first time I directed my friends. I knew their possibilities and limitations that was why I struggled to find a way to bring out the best of them. So the film turned out to be not subtle at all. With very little crew and everyone had to multitask, there were a lot of technical issues. However, the process of shooting was really fulfilling and enjoyable because this kind of filmmaking process can only happen between friends. 

Cast

Pey Sien Low as Xian
Xiao Rui Woon as Rui
Jacky as Jacky

Team

Producers
Han Loong Lim
Xiao Rui Woon

Director
Elise Shick

Sound Recordists
Jacky Yeap
Xiao Rui Woon
Pey Sien

Lighting
Jacky Yeap

Companion
Isyraqi