A selection of the Shanghai International Film Festival, Marcus Sun’s Swordsman is a heart wrenching tale of love and honor. This daring tale tells the story of Miyamoto Musashi a swordsman who is at risk of losing all he has, and is forced to decide between pursuing love or immortality as one of the greatest warriors amongst his peers. Inspired by a real-life Samurai, Swordsman’s story is one that translates across all language barriers and one that is able to entertain with both its action and romance. Audiences will be left speechless at the sight of the film’s flawless cinematographic framing and pleased by its colorful use of lighting.
"The character of Miyamoto Musashi. A real-life Samurai who lived during the tail end of the Japanese Sengoku-Jidai. I first heard of him when I read a few pages of his (fictional) biography in my High School's library. Something about his singular dedication to a craft to the cost of everything else struck a chord within me. Here is a man who, in order to perfect his swordsmanship skills, never married, never had children, and never stayed in one place for more than a month in his life. As a fellow artist, I don't think I could ever hope to reach his level of dedication and sacrifice. But I could, and in my opinion we all could, do with a little more of Musashi's spirit in us."
- Marcus Sun
The film is a period piece that takes place in the early feudal Japan. Fully immersive, right down to the details, the sets and the costume design in this short film is an achievement all its own. While watching this short, you will be amazed at the level of attention that has been put into this shorts production, and how well it pays off when it comes to the cultural basis of its plot.
Swordsman is a film that draws heavily from older film of similar subject matter, its framing mirrors that of filmmakers such as Akira Kurosawa and Masaki Kobayashi. While its style and production design embodies classics such as Ran and Samurai Rebellion. The resulting production is one that is riveting and new to those unfamiliar of its influences, and a comforting throwback to those who view those films in high praise.
This film makes great use of its time, in a mere 18 minutes, the film manages to present a world that is commonly reserved for longer features. Swordsman is a romance film at heart, Marcus Sun does a fabulous job of presenting the romance of the film’s lead Musashi in a way that leaves audiences compelled and invested in the fate of the relationship.
The acting and choreography in the film is amazing. Never do performances feel out of place or unnatural for the film’s subject matter. The cast feels right at home on screen and feed off each other in order to create on screen performances that are breathtaking.
Swordsman will leave you impressed and wanting more from writer director Marcus Sun. check out the short today on YouTube and experiences an ageless tale of manhood and love. Fans of Samurai movies and even fans of Romance movies alike can share excitement in this riveting tale.
INTERVIEW with Marcus Sun (Director/Writer)
First, what's your story? How did you become a filmmaker?
When I was very young, my family moved from my birthplace of Jiangsu, China to Guangzhou (or Canton as it was previously known) in the South. Due to allergies and various other environmental changes, I often couldn't sleep. To help me sleep, my Grandmother, a brilliant old lady, held me in her lap and told me stories. Imaginative, gripping, moving stories. Dozens of them that she made up on the spot and never a repeating idea! I never did get to sleep very well, but those stories planted a seed in my brain that refused to let me go. From those days on, every hobby I took on, everything that I did, was to service the desire within me to tell stories. Imaginative, gripping, moving stories that would stir within others the same sense of wonder that my Grandmother's stories stirred within me.
Any interesting production stories?
Oh, horror stories you mean? Plenty. There are wonderful stories too. I suppose if I had to warn anyone off of anything based on the experience of filming "Swordsman", it's to stay the hell off the beach. We shot the entire short with Los Angeles standing in for Japan, so Malibu had to stand in for both the shore of Honshu and Ganryu Island. Not only was the descent down to the beach very difficult for the actors in their very authentic but very elaborate kimonos, the wind and waves wreaked havoc without equipment. We had to move camp twice because of rapidly rising tides. The wind caked our lens with sand and sea salt, even tore up both our tents and sent them spinning down the length of the beach like over-sized metal-and-canvas tumbleweeds. It also whipped up the waves near shore so high that there was no way we could get our tiny boat out on the water, so all of the shot of Musashi in the boat were done on the beach, with the camera pointed at the horizon to get some distant water, and two PAs rocking the boat back and forth just out of frame. Then, when we finally managed to push the boat out and steal a shot while the lifeguard wasn't looking, we managed to get all of ten seconds of footage before a seven-foot wave came along and smacked the boat. The thing turned into a ballistic object headed straight for the shore and then capsized with the retreating surf. We had to run in and lift it off of our stunt double before he drowned. The costume was drenched, his sword props were gone, and the boat was half-totaled. The ten seconds of footage in the short was all the footage we ever got. I could probably go on...
What is it like film making now after having made this film? Has your approach changed?
It's definitely helped me prioritize. Firstly, what's in front of the camera is infinitely more important than what is within it. Shoot on a cheap camera if you have to, but don't skimp on actors and production design. Secondly, sound is important. Specifically, get a sound designer and composer involved in preproduction. They'll help you come up with unique solutions to complement your story rather than tack something on as an afterthought. Thirdly, remember, remember, remember what the purpose of each scene is. It'll be hard when the light's going and the wind is blowing sand into your lens, but that's the only reason you're there. If it's supposed to be heartbreaking, you better be damn sure you make it heartbreaking. Get that close-up or that reaction shot, because you won't ever have the chance to get it again. Even if you stay there an hour longer than you want to.
Do you have any projects lined up for the future?
Plenty. I'm currently working on my very first feature, but that's another story for another day.
Any advice to filmmakers?
Remember your basics. Those are the most difficult things to master. Conflicts. Goals. Beginning, Middle, and End. It's easy to forget those things with all the technical dribble-drabble that inundates most filmmaking social platforms nowadays, but without the Basics, your sexy MoVI-driven long take means absolutely nothing.