Award Banner
Award Banner

'Singaporeans are very risk-averse': Director Anthony Chen on breaking moulds for new film The Breaking Ice starring Zhou Dongyu

'Singaporeans are very risk-averse': Director Anthony Chen on breaking moulds for new film The Breaking Ice starring Zhou Dongyu
Zhou Dongyu and Anthony Chen at the press conference for The Breaking Ice on Sept 4, 2023.
PHOTO: AsiaOne

Local director Anthony Chen is taking a significant leap in his new movie.

Yesterday (Sept 4), Anthony and Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu spoke to local media at the press conference for his feature film The Breaking Ice, which also stars Chinese actors Liu Haoran and Qu Chuxiao.

Unlike his past works Ilo Ilo and Wet Season which were set in Singapore, The Breaking Ice is set in Yanji, northern China, and it revolves around the blossoming relationships among three young adults over a few days in the harsh winter.

Centering the movie on young adults is an example of Anthony breaking the mould of past topics about families and middle-aged people.

The 39-year-old elaborated: "I have been looking for a breakthrough, it's entirely different from my past works.

"Some critics asked me why my films are so precise and concise, and wondered what a freer and more relaxed piece of work would look like.

"They also thought my topics were very mature and old, and even too mature for my age group, unlike that of a new director. They asked me, 'Why don't you make a film about younger people instead of about middle-aged people and families?'"

He added he is grateful for his cast and crew for taking risks with him, and he recognised that being safe could be a "Singaporean" quality.

Anthony shared: "Singaporeans are very risk-averse, so we are very calculative and precise with things. I feel that it's an essential quality of Singaporeans.

"For example, I was from Chinese High School, and when we had to choose a question for exams, nine out of 10 students would choose an argumentative essay as we have been wholly trained for it. No one will choose to write a descriptive essay for exams (as it's hard to train for that)."

He also said: "I have never been so uncomfortable, anxious and uneasy. I found many new joys in my uneasiness. You see a work that is younger and more vibrant."

'Dongyu never gives up'

Dongyu, 31, recalled a scene in the movie where, though she is sensitive to cigarette smoke, smoked so much that she vomited after that.

Anthony, praising her performance, added: "Perseverance is her special quality. Some actors may give up and acknowledge that they have come to their wits' end but Dongyu never gives up. She will keep persevering till she gets it and she would check if I was good with her performance."

He isn't the kind who easily gives up too, according to the host of the press conference, who added there's a well-known impression of Anthony as a perfectionist who often required repeated takes of scenes.

Anthony agreed, saying: "We did many takes for almost every scene in The Breaking Ice."

He acknowledged that making a film is a very personal thing for him and is exhausting as "a lot of pain, conflict and anxiety is accumulated within".

In fact, Anthony confessed that he would blame himself instead of his team if a scene was not captured the way he wanted it to be.

When writing the script, he drew his inspiration from materials he had read or seen about Chinese young people, he said.

"I just present what I honestly feel, without judgement. I also tried to integrate the actors' own qualities and emotions into the original character.


"For example, Chuxiao rides a motorbike in the film as I often see him ride it in the rural areas of Beijing.

"Dongyu is suitable for her character because she was a gymnastics athlete when she was young. She had to be disciplined with her routines to achieve what everybody expected, and the same happens for her character, so there is some integration with her real self."

Lianhe Zaobao reported The Breaking Ice recently received a seven-minute standing ovation at its world premiere in the Un Certain Regard section at the 76th Cannes Film Festival.

The Hollywood Reporter critics selected it as one of 20 best films of Cannes 2023, while Indiewire included the film on their list of 14 best movies at Cannes. Ten years since he won the Camera d'or for his first feature Ilo Ilo in 2013, this was Anthony's fourth entry into the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.


Cultural and gastronomic tour around Singapore

Dongyu shared that Anthony brought her on an "arts, cultural and gastronomic tour" around Singapore in the past few days, where she ate bak kut teh, durians, satay and chilli crab.

Dongyu also attended a meet-and-greet event for the film on Sept 3 at Marina Bay Sands with the gala premiere taking place last night.


It was Dongyu's first time doing publicity in Singapore and she managed some sightseeing before the event.

Some of her fans spotted her and asked to take a photo with her. Many praised her for being friendly and amiable and also complimented her on her natural beauty.

Dongyu has had an outstanding acting career since debuting in 2011, winning numerous best actress awards at the Asian Film Awards, Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Rooster Awards over the past 12 years.

The Breaking Ice opens in Singapore this Thursday Sept 7.

ALSO READ: '80s Hong Kong actress Moon Lee returns to limelight after 2 decades

No part of this article can be reproduced without permission from AsiaOne.

This website is best viewed using the latest versions of web browsers.