Questions raised as famous novel adapted into film
Published: Sep 04, 2023 10:37 PM
Scene from the English language opera Dream of the Red Chamber Photo: Courtesy of Armstrong Music & Arts-ZEXI

Scene from the English language opera Dream of the Red Chamber Photo: Courtesy of Armstrong Music & Arts-ZEXI

The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) novel Dream of the Red Chamber is not only one of the most widely read, but also one of the most filmed books in Chinese history. The sprawling love story has proved a challenge to many filmmakers over the years. For this reason, a new version, The Story of the Stone, has been questioned by Chinese netizens who regard the casting of the actors as a "total failure."

Netizens and movie lovers expressed their doubts on Sina Weibo after the film trailer was released.

"These actors don't have the classical look and the casting is not quite appropriate, especially the roles of Xue Baochai and Lin Daiyu," said one comment on Sina Weibo. 

"It's hard to judge," quipped another.

One of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, Dream of the Red Chamber has been adapted as both films and dramas over the years. Some were big hits, while others were mocked. 

The 1962 Yueju Opera movie version was hugely popular and a critical hit that still stands out as a classic of both 18th century literature and 1960s moviemaking. Similarly, the 1987 drama also received unanimous praise from the public and was billed as "a wonderful chapter in the history of Chinese television" and "an insurmountable classic." 

The 2010s TV series directed by Li Shaohong was widely controversial: Actors lacked a sense of aura and its styling was criticized as lifeless.

The upcoming film was directed by renowned Chinese director Hu Mei. According to media reports, it will show the novel's youthful stories. 

Hu is regarded as a representative of China's "Fifth Generation" (young directors who graduated from the Beijing Film Academy in the 1980s) directors. She has directed popular works such as Yongzheng Dynasty, a 1999 Chinese historical television series.

Although this film adaption has caused controversy, it's likely that a significant number of people will watch this film out of curiosity because the novel is so influential around the world. 

"I am still looking forward to it because it's directed by Hu Mei, and the scenes in the trailer are quite beautiful," wrote one Sina Weibo user.