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A conversation with Ash Mayfair

The Third Wife is an exquisite period film: It is beautiful and sensuous, and makes subtle use of gazes and gestures to tell a story rooted in thorough knowledge about history.

Av 6. nov 2018

In the beginning of The Third Wife we see several boats on a calm river, and the rolling landscape is mirrored in the waters surface. In the end of the 19th century in rural parts of Vietnam, fourteen year old May is given away in an arranged marriage as a payment for her fathers depth. On the wedding day she becomes the third wife to an older man, Hung.

May finds out that she can gain status and safety, if she gives birth to a male child. This
becomes a real possibility when she becomes pregnant. It becomes problematic when she is
attracted to Xuan, the second wife. As may observes a tragedy unfolding of forbidden love and
its devastating consequences, she have to make a choice, to continue i silence and safety, or
create a way to personal freedom.

The filming of The Third Wife

Due to the nature of the story, they wanted most of the creative leads to be women. The Third
Wife was a challenging production because they wanted it to be as authentic as possible with the
historical details. It was important for the movie to use real locations untouched from modern
development, which meant they had to hike into remote mountain areas for every exterior scene.
Much of what they discovered i the natural environments, as silk worms, different bird songs,
fog created by changing weather, became important visual themes in the movie.
The nature is a dominant symbolic force which is closely knitted to spirituality and
religion. The people’s lives and habits are influenced by the sun and the seasons. It was
important to portrait this with using so much natural light as possible. Their Director of
Photography experimented with using flames as natural lightning in the night scenes because
Ash Mayfair didn’t want artificial light.

She wants The Third Wife to be the first of many stories about humanity and their
complex beauty she wants to tell, and that the movie will live its own life and touch and inspire
other artists to do the same, including young girls which maybe wants to share their stories in
the future. The language in The Third Wife is Vietnamese, with English subtitles.

-The movie has been well recepted. But I don’t think is related to language. Cinema can and
should extend beyond cultural boundaries. We are lucky to live in a world where stories
typically unknown to our personal experiences can be accessed and shared with ease. Thus, I
travel with this film not just to show but also to learn.

Inspiration

The Third Wife is inspired by the history of Ash Mayfairs family. The men and the women in the
movie is taken from real people, close knitted to the rural landscape in Vietnam. The history,
even if it’s fiction, is woven together of several different real happenings. Both her grand-grand
mother and grandmother had arranged marriages at a young age. Her grand grandmother lived in
a polygamous marriage from she was a teenager until the end of her life. The history of arranged
marriages is deep rooted, and she was attracted to the theme not only and her family’s history but
also because this unfortunately is something that exists in several countries in the world.
When they started to make the movie five years ago, she experienced that many people
she had talked to when they were researching the movie have had many of the same experiences
as the characters in the movie.

The set in the movie where designed to be historical exact. When they rehearsed, she
worked close with the actors with all aspects with their characters. She used historical research,
literature, painting and music so they should be informed about the people in this period.
As a filmmaker is Ash Mayfair not inspired with any specific filmmakers.

-I learn from all the filmmakers I have had the opportunity to watch the work they have made or
the process I have been so lucky to observe. Inspiration comes from everywhere. Life is an
amazing rich tapestry of history and connections.