While cinematography and appropriate casting form the backbone to a drama’s success, another important factor that weighs in- is the location/setting. An entire team is involved in checking out the locales suitable to the script to building magnanimous sets that match the show’s era. In today’s feature, our authors will be taking about their favorite cinematic “Location/Setting”.
Lotus Pier/Lotus Lake – The Untamed [China]
There isn’t a setting or location inside the Chinese bromance The Untamed that doesn’t inspire awe. The sets are well thought out and beautifully shot, from Cloud Recesses to the Burial Mounds. But it’s the Lotus Pier that stands out to me the most. Much of this has to do with the emotional scene that takes place on Lotus Lake between Wei Wuxian and Lan Zhan. As beautifully revealing as the scene is, a large part of what makes it so emotionally vivid is the lake they’re on when the conversation takes place. The lake with its lily pads and tranquil waters inspires the imagination, lending surreal magic to a scene full of the unprofessed love between them.
The Beach – I Told Sunset About You [Thailand]
The Thai BL I Told Sunset About You is full of symbolic props, beautiful angles, and magnificent lighting, fully realizing the vivid story ITSAY is trying to tell. But the beach location spoke to me. Every detail and every moment that takes place on the beach and inside the water is visceral, raw, and emotionally naked, from confessed feelings to underwater kisses. The beach inspires a sense of foreboding and promise, equally heralding Teh and Oh Aew’s obstacles as much as it predicts the future they’re headed toward.
Inthawut’s home – 180 Degree Longitude Passes Through Us [Thailand]
Nowhere is the setting more important than in the Thai BL 180 Degree the series. The location is as much a central character in the drama as the three main leads. Inthawut’s house is a symbolic, philosophical, and poetic rendering of one man’s lonely idea of a utopia. In a way, Inthawut has built an island of refuge inside the mountains of Thailand, a place where he is closer to the mist that covers the ground when he wakes than he is to people. An entire heartbreaking love story unfolds inside this home, and the production behind this series takes full advantage of it. From the abstract paintings, books, and globes, to the ‘lines’ detailed so beautifully throughout the house, to the bridge being built beyond it, Inthawut’s home is a symbolic setting that touches the lonely part of my heart.
The tent – Not Me [Thailand]
Not all sets and locations have to be grand to make a scene stand out. In the Thai BL Not Me, a tent on a roof becomes a cocoon of intimacy where the main leads share thoughts, feelings, and love. From the conversations between Sean and White to their gorgeously shot love scene, the tent inspires the safety and security they don’t find outside of it. They can take their masks off inside the tent and be themselves, even before White reveals his true identity.
The street lamp – To My Star 2 [Korea]
Sometimes simple is better, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the street lamp scene between Kang Seo Joon and Han Ji Woo in the Korean BL To My Star 2. After spending an afternoon searching for a local lost child, Seo Joon and Ji Woo find themselves sitting on the pavement, just within the circle of light from a security lamp nearby. It’s a pivotal scene that reveals how hard Ji Woo works to suppress his feelings for Seo Joon while also revealing Seo Joon’s burdens. It felt like watching them on stage, having a significant moment underneath the glare of a spotlight, only this spotlight was golden and soft despite the intensity of the emotions happening beneath it.
The theater show – To Sir, With Love [Thailand]
A small house, candlelight, a blanket, and handheld cardboard cutouts are all it takes to create an awe-inspiring moment between main leads Jiu and Tian inside the Thai Lakorn To Sir, With Love. From the flickering candles to how the blanket creates a wall of honesty, the scene inside Jiu’s small home allows these characters to be truthful about their growing, conflicted feelings without actually expressing them. I am a fan of simple settings, the locations that aren’t large but pared down to encompass a pivotal moment. The ‘theater’ scene gives viewers that. I found myself lost in the magic and the unspoken feelings between them. I felt like I was sitting behind the blanket with them, intruding on a private moment that left my heart warm.
Some fantastic locations that have been used in certain BLs. From university settings to exotic places, some are what we expected, whilst others are purely surprising. I mostly prefer exotic locations, as they aren’t the norm and seem more interesting to me.
Here are some of my favorites-
A Tale of 1000 Stars
This series was shot in the midst of the forests which serve as an army post. Very rustic and simple. Tian comes from a privileged world, so this is a huge change for him. The locales were just utterly breathtaking. The majestic mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets were enchanting. Night scenes highlighting the shimmering stars were just amazingly depicted. You slowly feel rivalled by the feeling of the natural beauty encasing that area that they are living in and protecting.
On Cloud 9
The alternate pacing between the shots showing what heaven may be like was exceptionally well done. The drama was built on the idea of an alternate universe of sorts, where everything is beautiful and nothing is hurtful. Watching the two main characters come together in this place was a complete joy to watch. The location and setting for this drama were utterly gorgeous.
The feeling of living in a country where the Government rules with an iron fist and money talks is indeed jarring. The scenes depicting the revolutionary protests, whereby they focused on the common man’s issues, were somber and realistic. Realizing this is real, and this is actually happening was quite eye-opening for me. My heart was saddened watching their pain and suffering. The way this taciturn was played out was pure genius. This series is one of my all-time favorites for a plethora of reasons, one being the location they filmed it in.
There are so many more that chose a non-traditional location to film in and I, for one, am so glad BLs are branching out of the university settings while showing us more realistic stories. This is why I love BL’s there is so many locations that can be used and settings other than university settings and I, for one, am hoping I see more locations like these three in 2023.
We will be back next week with the second edition of this feature. So till then, keep watching this space as we bring you more updates from the Asian BL World!