As one of the highly anticipated costume dramas of 2023, "Story of Kunning Palace" finally made a strong debut in the winter season. The number of pre-orders before the premiere has exceeded 7.4 million. After the premiere, the drama's popularity was unstoppable, and with its soaring momentum, it quickly attracted a large number of casual fans and related content creators. What is the magic of "Story of Kunning Palace"?
"Story of Kunning Palace" has remarkable highlights in various dimensions of character development, emotional expression, world-building, plot progression, value innovation, and aesthetic creation in Chinese costume dramas. It is not difficult to understand why it has sparked another wave of phenomenal drama craze in Q4 of Chinese dramas.
The intertwining of strategy and love
Many viewers have given feedback that the plot of "Story of Kunning Palace" is smooth and fulfilling. What makes "Story of Kunning Palace" achieve this effect?
Firstly, the clever and ingenious foundation setting of the entire story makes it rich and vibrant. Based on the continuous progression of the main storyline, the opening pace is brisk, and the plot remains engaging. Jiang Xuening, after experiencing hardships, finally becomes the queen but is forced to commit suicide. This is the ending of the latest serialized novel "Story of Kunning Palace". However, the author is not satisfied with this ending, so she decides to continue writing the story, allowing Jiang Xuening to make a new choice with her memories, laying a solid foundation for the direction of the entire drama in the first episode.
The clever "with memories" setting of the story allows for multiple possibilities in the development of the entire plot. What stories will unfold when facing the paranoid and infatuated Xie Wei, the upright and tender Zhang Zhe, and the straightforward and passionate young Lord Yan Lin? The chess game restarts, and the wheel of fate turns. In the Ning'an Palace, a ridiculous dream unfolds. The charm of a long narrative lies in its uncertainty, and the premise of "making a new choice with memories" greatly enhances this uncertainty.
Secondly, the smooth and fluent nature of "Story of Kunning Palace" is largely based on the clear goals of the characters in the drama. This is precisely derived from the god's perspective" given to the characters by the creators through the setting of "living life again with memories."
For example, Jiang Xuening speculates that the tragic incident in the Yan family may be related to Zhou Yin, so she invites him back to the Zhou family under the pretense of his beloved horse falling ill, and through a series of words, she tests and verifies her own conjecture. Jiang Xuening secretly plans and strategizes to prevent the "Blood Crown Ceremony" that happened in the past.
In addition, the editing technique of the drama also enhances the narrative. In order to accurately depict the protagonist "rewriting life with memories" through visuals, the drama constantly flashes back and intersperses dream memories, creating a sense of suspense while clarifying the logic for the audience.
For example, the opening flashback scene shows Xie Wei leading troops to attack the imperial city, with Yan Lin acting as the vanguard guard. This raises questions about the relationship between Xie Wei and Yan Lin, leaving Jiang Xuening puzzled in reality and making the audience curious about the direction of their relationship. Similarly, the opening has already revealed that in the dream memory, Jiang Xuening was forced to commit suicide by Xie Wei, but the drama repeatedly flashes back to scenes of Jiang Xuening feeding blood to Xie Wei, who suffers from a soul-devouring illness.
What kind of complex emotional entanglement exists between them? How will Xie Wei behave towards Jiang Xuening in reality? These constantly captivate the attention and emotions of the audience. "Story of Kunning Palace" is not only a costume drama, but also skillfully applies suspenseful techniques.
From the perspective of the overall framework of the drama, "Story of Kunning Palace" intertwines and advances the career line and the love line, successfully blending career and emotions.
In terms of the career line, the "Xue Yan dispute" is an important plotline in the drama, with Xie Wei manipulating behind the scenes. Jiang Xuening's fate choice is another plotline, such as attempting to change the "Blood Crown Ceremony" that happened in the past, altering Jiang Xuehui's marriage, and preventing Shen Zhiyi's marriage alliance.
As various power struggles evolve, Jiang Xuening and Xie Wei's attitudes towards each other continuously change, naturally intertwining the love line and the career line. The drama not only has thrilling and calculated strategies but also intense emotional entanglements, satisfying the addictive points and exciting points of different viewers.
Novelty casting character thickness
In the drama "Ning'an Dream", one of the major highlights is the creation of unique and complex characters with depth and originality.
The character Jiang Xuening has gained popularity among viewers due to her departure from the traditional gentle female lead in period dramas. She is portrayed as a clear-headed protagonist who embodies the aesthetic preferences of the new generation. With her high intelligence, strong will, aversion to evil, and ambition evident on her face, Jiang Xuenin, originally born into a wealthy family, grew up in a rural area after being switched at birth.
As she strives to become the empress, her ambition is fueled by her resistance against the injustice of fate and her escape from her original family. The meticulousness of "Story of Kunning Palace" lies in its portrayal of the essential nature of drama, that is, a character's personality is shaped by their unique circumstances.
After being given the opportunity to rewrite her destiny, Jiang Xuening's character undergoes continuous refinement and transformation due to her changing environment. Her personality, in turn, influences her choices and actions, greatly enhancing the uncertainty of the story's development. The contrast between the Jiang Xuening in memory and the present Jiang Xuening cleverly reveals a clear character transformation curve in different time and space.
Xie Wei, unlike the thin and transparent male leads in previous period dramas, is depicted as a saintly figure with a devilish heart. He is strategic, cunning, ruthless, and unpredictable. As the plot progresses, Xie Wei's multifaceted identity gradually unfolds, adding more credibility to his character development.
The depth of the characters serves to deepen the emotional intensity. The conflicting personalities of Xie Wei and Jiang Xuening, both strong-willed individuals, create sparks of passion in their relationship. Their initial encounter is not love at first sight.
At the beginning of their journey to rewrite their destinies, Jiang Xuening fears and distrusts Xie Wei, while Xie Wei approaches Jiang Xuening with suspicion and curiosity. They constantly clash and reconcile in their unique environment. The appeal of the emotional scenes in "Story of Kunning Palace" lies in the meticulous portrayal of this emotional confrontation process.
As the saying goes, a thousand viewers have a thousand different points of appreciation. As a period drama with a diverse cast of characters, "Story of Kunning Palace" presents three different relationships: Jiang Xuening and Xie Wei, Jiang Xuening and Zhang Zhe, and Jiang Xuening and Yan Lin. Each of these relationships has its own unique flavor.
Yan Lin, a nobleman, is candid, straightforward, and has a youthful spirit. He wholeheartedly loves Jiang Xuening, and their childhood friendship is pure and untainted. The shattered memories of this relationship evoke a sense of melancholy in the audience. Zhang Zhe, on the other hand, exudes an air of elegance and embodies the Confucian spirit. Although Zhang Zhe has limited screen time so far, the confrontation between him and Jiang Xuening in her memories is filled with a sense of tragedy and destiny.
Within these three relationships, there are regrets, deep affection, stubbornness, and warmth. The ultimate question of whom Jiang Xuening will choose becomes a suspenseful stone that weighs on the hearts of viewers. Through the dynamics of the relationships and the character interactions, "Story of Kunning Palace" creates a sense of suspense in the emotional narrative.
Creating emotional value for the masses
Wang Xiaohui, the chief content officer and president of professional content group at iQiyi, mentioned the formula for good content: high-quality series = classic structure + innovative audiovisuals + contemporary empathy. "Story of Kunning Palace" not only follows the classic narrative structure and rules of drama, but also accurately caters to the spiritual needs of young viewers, truly presenting a new perspective on period dramas.
"Story of Kunning Palace" focuses on Jiang Xuening's growth journey of defying fate. In the early stages, the female lead pursues power and schemes to achieve her goals by using others. After rewriting her destiny, she resolves her inner conflicts, rediscovers herself, and becomes a resolute and compassionate heroine. This unique character development conveys the core value of the drama: even though individuals may be insignificant in the face of destiny, as long as they remain resilient and tenacious, they can to some extent change their past outcomes, make amends for regrets and mistakes, and achieve personal growth.
"Story of Kunning Palace" also highlights the powerful force of female solidarity. For instance, Jiang Xuening saves You Fangyin, who was abused and nearly drowned, at Qingyuan Manor. Additionally, Jiang Xuening helps Shen Zhiyi heal her emotional scars caused by an eye injury through comforting words and drawing a cherry blossom makeup. This portrayal exemplifies the idea of girls help girls within the Chinese costume drama.
Life is like a dream, but ultimately it seeks tranquility and peace. Jiang Xuening engages in a dialogue with her former self, gradually reconciling with herself and consciously or unconsciously living a different life. In fact, not only Jiang Xuening, but also the character development of Xie Wei and others in the drama, represents a process of battling inner demons and reconciling with the past. This self-reconciliation resonates with the current trend of urban individuals seeking inner healing.
Currently, costume dramas have fallen into a creative bottleneck of clichés. "Story of Kunning Palace" demonstrates innovation in its characters, emotions, and values. Compared to other period dramas, it is difficult to categorize "Story of Kunning Palace" due to its innovative nature. It weaves together power struggles and romance to create a dreamlike parallel world. In this world, there are both lofty palaces and remote rivers and mountains, majestic palace walls and serene bamboo forests, dazzling sword fights and elegant poetry, tender affections and heart-wrenching struggles.
The essence of film and television dramas is to construct a parallel world that allows viewers to immerse themselves in an experience distinct from reality. The worldview portrayed in "Story of Kunning Palace" is not a flat one. It juxtaposes good and evil, truth and falsehood, in a dualistic structure that is different from the complex contradictions of real life. The interplay of cunning power struggles and romantic loyalty satisfies the spiritual needs of the audience.