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The Sympathizer DP Breaks Down a Shot From Episode 1 of War Drama

The Sympathizer DP Breaks Down a Shot From Episode 1 of War Drama

In HBO/Max’s war drama The Sympathizer, adapted from Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer-winning novel and co-created by renowned director Park Chan-wook, a communist spy from North Vietnam (The Captain, played by Hoa Xuande) accompanies a Southern Vietnamese general (Toan Le) as he prepares to flee for America or risk capture. In this scene from episode one, The General is compiling his list of names to board the getaway plane with him, while The Captain starts crossing out those who’ll stay behind, masterfully depicted onscreen through this transition (one of many impressively complex scene changes in the series) showing the paper and the red pen indicating those fated to remain and face their victors’ wrath.

Cinematographer Kim Ji-yong chose this shot out of the show’s many cinematic frames because, he says, it’s “accumulating movement. It’s not a simple, static shot.” This particular scene was filmed in Thailand under intense heat in an abandoned office building. “When Chan-wook came up with the idea of covering this white parchment with this ruler and making it the transition, it reminded me of one shot from episode three, [where] The Captain’s on top of the [South Vietnamese] major, aiming a gun at him. So I told Chan-wook, ‘What if we move the camera to see Captain’s face [in a] weird way that’s [foreshadowing] him assassinating this guy on the list, the major,’ whose name is crossed out as we move between scenes.”

This story first appeared in a May standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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