Over the next week, whenever Xu Luoyang was filming, Qi Chang’an was there on set with him.
Meng Huazhang sat behind the monitor, replaying a scene they’d just filmed and after watching it multiple times, he turned to Qi Chang’an and asked, “What do you think?”
“It’s better than before.” Qi Chang’an was sitting on a white portable stool, looking at the playback. “One thing’s clear: Luoyang has got better control over his scenes now.”
“You’re very spot on. Before, Luoyang got so into his role that it sometimes felt forced when it appeared on the big screen, but now he’s much more restrained.” Meng Huazhang smiled as he said, “Sure enough, bringing you, this steadying influence here was a smart move.”
Qi Chang’an didn’t answer, saying instead, “Luoyang has been under a lot of stress this week.”
“It can be seen that he has high demands of himself when it comes to filming, that’s why his progress is so fast.” Then Meng Huazhang, seeing that his focus was on the screen, teased, “You’re feeling distressed for him?”
“Hmm.” Qi Chang’an nodded honestly, a bit of helplessness in his voice, “He even mumbles his lines in his sleep and sometimes, he’ll space out during dinner, also thinking about filming.”
Seeing his concern, Meng Huazhang’s voice softened. “If Chang’yin saw you now, he’d be pleased.” Having been close friends with Qi Shiyan, Meng Huazhang treated Qi Chang’an as if he were family.
Catching the implication, Qi Chang’an looked back at him, a smile in his eyes, “My big brother asked you to come and probe me a bit?”
Meng Huazhang, exposed, wasn’t embarrassed. He simply nodded with a smile, “Yes, Chang’yin knew you’d be here, so he wanted me to ask you subtly when he can meet Xu Luoyang.”
Not answering immediately, Qi Chang’an’s eyelashes lowered before he answered after a while, “Maybe after some time.”
Just then, Xu Luoyang came out from the makeup room and Meng Huazhang stood up, immediately shifting to work mode, his expression serious. “Everyone, get ready! We’ll start in three minutes! Lighting, go with plan A first and we’ll adjust based on the results.”
The previous scene had Xu Luoyang’s character, You Su, going back to his university days, while the upcoming scene jumped to a second flashback, with You Su at age thirty-three.
This was a challenging part of the filming. Xu Luoyang had to capture the emotional changes of his character at different ages. The room’s decor had also been significantly altered from the previous scene.
Hearing Meng Huazhang’s voice, Xu Luoyang responded with a ‘Ready.’ His speaking noticeably slower. As people aged, their speaking rate often slowed down because their vocal cords relaxed, making their voice sound more muffled and more breathy.
And catching Xu Luoyang’s attention to this detail keenly, Meng Huazhang nodded, “We’ll start in ten seconds.”
You Su, with wrinkles already appearing at the corners of his eyes, walked into the room. His hair was messy, causing one to know at a glance that he didn’t take much care of it on a daily basis. Black-framed glasses sat on his nose, and he was wearing a slightly worn-out suit, with a jacket which showed clear signs of wear on the sleeves, with some folds at the bottom.
The room was dimly lit, giving off a depressing feeling. You Su hurried to his child’s room, so rushed that he didn’t notice the room’s setup, banging his knee hard on a low table.
There was a loud ‘bang’ sound and he stumbled a little from the force, however he continued on, bumping and fumbling his way into his child’s room, only to stop a few steps away from the crib.
The wind chime hanging over the crib was the only sound in the entire scene, its ring crisp and clear.
“Camera two, give me a close-up of his face and left hand.” Meng Huazhang whispered, focusing intently on Xu Luoyang under the lens as he murmured to himself, “Stay calm, take it slow….”
After a long silence, You Su took a small step but then hesitated again. It was as if a massive black hole lay just a few steps ahead, making him too terrified to approach. At the same time, his left hand trembled more and more, his pupils contracting as his eyelashes quivered in fear–
He knew what he was about to face. In his second time-travel, he had chosen to return to when he was thirty-three, before the untimely death of his eldest son. However even after coming back, he still hadn’t been able to change the set course of his fate.
Without shedding a tear or going hysterical, You Su walked over to the crib with unhurried steps and knelt down, and reaching out, he touched his child’s cheek gently, but as if frightened, pulled his hand back violently.
Just after, he gripped the railing of the crib tightly, and if it weren’t for the prominent veins on the back of his hand and the bulging blood vessels on the side of his neck, from a distance, he would have looked even more like a statue.
Staring at his son who had already passed away, You Su’s lips moved, wanting to say something. However even after his Adam’s apple bobbed a few times, no sound came out. He hadn’t shed a tear, but it was as if he was surrounded by a cloud of sorrow, the mood even affecting the emotions of the crew outside the camera frame. The makeup artist waiting on the side couldn’t help but turn away, quietly choking back tears.
Outside the frame, Meng Huazhang’s eyes brightened more and more. He hadn’t discussed exactly how this scene should be handled with Xu Luoyang, leaving the performance entirely up to him.
And he indeed hadn’t let him down.
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