Directed by Lu Yang, starring Huang Xuan, Wu Yue, Zhang Rongrong, Lu Fangsheng, Wang Shengdi, Jiang Qiming and others, the ancient fantasy drama "The Mutations" is currently being broadcasted. The plot is set in the Tianqi period, telling the story of a sudden outbreak of a plague on a remote island outside Ningyuan City. Chu Sijing, a member of the Jin Yi Wei, secretly investigates and becomes entangled in a series of mysterious and dangerous events. This drama combines fantasy elements with Eastern culture, creating a unique temperament and style, bringing the audience an ultimate sense of freshness.
This drama is based on the historical fact of the rampant plague in the late Ming Dynasty. Through the process of investigating the truth of the typhoid fever in Ningyuan City by the Jin Yi Wei, it involves various forces such as Chu Sijing (played by Huang Xuan), Ba Yan, a official (played by Wu Yue), and Captain Angelica, a foreign ship (played by Zhang Rongrong). From Ningyuan City to Ninghai Fortress, and then to Wumo Island, as the investigation deepens, the level of danger gradually increases, and the truth and secrets behind each key character are about to be revealed.
The plot is intricately linked, with a tight pace. Based on history, this drama incorporates many Eastern and fantasy elements, giving it a mysterious Eastern color. In addition, in terms of the atmosphere of the camera and the visuals, the director of this drama also uses some mystical elements, bringing the audience a fantastic visual experience, making them feel as if they are embarking on this mysterious adventure together with the protagonists in the drama.
Writing an Oriental story with supernatural themes
The innovation of "The Mutations" lies in its ingenious integration of Eastern culture into the plot, presenting the audience with a visual and cultural feast. This series is not just an ordinary suspenseful adventure drama, but it also combines the stories of exploring a deserted island with the introduction of Eastern monsters from "Classic of Mountains and Seas" and "Book of Gods and Strange Things", such as Hei Huan, Heng Gong, and Xuan Ming, creating a unique Eastern aesthetic and visual impact.
In "Classic of Mountains and Seas", the Hei Huan is described as a peculiar bird. Its image is mostly associated with mystery or ominousness and sometimes linked to disasters, death, or other supernatural events. In ancient China, birds were often closely connected with concepts such as the sky, gods, and souls. Therefore, mysterious birds like the Hei Huan are often endowed with profound symbolic meaning in literary and artistic works.
The investigation in "The Mutations" is rooted in a mysterious epidemic, where people grow scales-like things on their bodies. This disease is interpreted as "typhoid fever", but seeing the condition of the infected individuals, it is evident that it is not a simple injury, as the infected individuals eventually transform into monsters, losing their human will forever.
This is undoubtedly a disaster, similar to a certain kind of zombie virus. Chu Sijing embarks on this mysterious adventure in order to investigate the truth behind the epidemic. As the adventure deepens, Chu Sijing learns that the monsters on Wumo Island are the transformed infected individuals. The island's elder, Qiu Zhi, seems to know the truth, and he reveals it to Chu Sijing, referring to these monsters as Hei Huan, his own kin.
In the plot, the young girl Shen Cong seems to have a certain obsession with birds, and there are many bird images in the scenes. This bird may symbolize disaster and ominousness, and the monstrous creatures that the infected people transform into at the end also take the form of birds.
Shen Cong has always protected these monstrous birds because she knows that her brother has mutated into this kind of creature. Her brother Shen Ran can control his own consciousness and transform freely from a human into a monster, and he has established the Hei Huan organization. He established this organization in order to control the epidemic on the island and to investigate the whereabouts of the cult "Heng Gong" which is responsible for the disease spreading on this remote island.
"Heng Gong" also originates from Chinese classical mythology. In ancient Chinese mythology and folklore, "Heng Gong" is a mysterious creature. Its image and characteristics may vary in different literature and legends. These creatures are often depicted as having magical powers or special attributes, and their stories are closely related to local customs, beliefs, and cultural traditions. Therefore, it is very appropriate for the drama to use "Heng Gong" to refer to a mysterious and unpredictable force.
The struggle between humans and colossal monsters naturally carries a sense of destiny and tragedy, which is also a concept and spirit that has always been conveyed in Chinese classical mythology. "The Mutations" introduces the tragic spirit of Eastern ghost stories into the plot while incorporating classical mythical beasts. In addition, the main part of the plot takes place on a deserted island where the residents make a living by fishing, but there is a taboo legend of a sea god on the island, which requires the islanders not to consume sea fish, otherwise disasters will occur. This unreasonable legend further enhances the sense of destiny of this island, casting a mysterious veil of suspense over the drama.
Although the entire work is enveloped in an Eastern aesthetic, the drama also combines this mystery with Western elements. Some netizens jokingly mentioned that the third episode had a "Pirates of the Caribbean" style, which is because the drama also introduced the element of a pirate captain. According to transliteration, Angelica should be from France or a certain country in Western Europe. Her appearance is very much like a pirate from the Caribbean, and she is also of mixed Chinese and Western descent, fighting for her honor and title.
Angelica is also involved in this adventure because of her own investigation purposes, and she teams up with Chu Sijing. Therefore, in many fight scenes, the drama features both Western firearms and Eastern weapons and martial arts. It can be said that it truly achieves the combination of Western elements, Eastern elements, and fantasy elements.
Eastern aesthetics create a sense of mystery
"The Mutations" uses a highly Eastern textured ink painting style and unique aesthetic style in different spaces. This aesthetic design not only enhances the visual appeal of the series, but also provides richness and depth in storytelling and artistic expression.
From the costumes of the characters, Chu Sijing and Boyan's clothes are generally dark colors such as ink and blue, while the environmental backgrounds of the drama are often snowy and wilderness, which perfectly aligns with the characteristics of Chinese classical ink painting with its emphasis on simplicity and the use of empty space. Ink painting is a representative form in Eastern art, known for its simplicity, profound artistic conception, and the combination of movement and stillness. In "The Mutations", the background colors of the drama are not complicated, and the fight scenes pay great attention to the sense of power and beauty, integrating the characteristics of Chinese martial arts and dance.
In addition, the drama also uses different lighting and shadow effects in different spaces. For example, yellow and black tones are used to indicate the righteous and villainous characters. The scenes with Chu Sijing and Angelica are often dominated by yellow tones, while when monsters appear and when Chu Sijing enters the secret realm, dark blue and black tones prevail.
Since most of the drama takes place at night, changes in lighting and shadows are used to indicate the contrast between light and darkness. When righteous characters appear, the warm tones reflected by lights or torches create a cozy atmosphere, while when a crisis arises, the light becomes dim or extinguished, indicating that lives are being threatened.
On the island of Wumu, the director often uses misty scenes to create a sense of mystery. Under the influence of the mist, the houses and trees appear elusive, which is also the application of blank space in classical Chinese ink painting. The mysterious atmosphere created by the mist also has a symbolic effect, symbolizing the unknown of this adventurous journey and the unknown fate of impending danger, further creating a sense of suspense.
The design of night fog poses a great challenge to the filming of the entire drama. The behind-the-scenes filming team of the drama is also very professional. The chief director, Lu Yang, has directed two films, "Brotherhood of Blades" and "A Writer's Odyssey", and the other two directors of the drama, Qiao Lei and Fan Chuan, also have experience in directing multiple films. Therefore, "The Mutations" has a film-like quality from the very first shot.
In short, the meticulous visual art design and the suspenseful atmosphere enhanced by night scenes and mist effects together constitute a prominent feature of this drama, making it a film and television work of extremely high standard in terms of visuals and narrative.
Shaping the spirit of the East to create a lone hero
No matter how exciting the story is, the core lies in the character development, and the portrayal of Chu Sijing by Huang Xuan in "The Mutations" is a typical example. The depth and complexity of the character Chu Sijing is the key factor that attracts the audience to this drama.
Chu Sijing is a typical image of a lone hero. Although he is a member of the Jin Yi Wei, unlike other Jin Yi Wei dramas, the Jin Yiwei here is no longer a symbol or a group, but highlights the individual character. He appears to be traveling with Boyan, but in reality, he has been investigating the truth alone, and he carries the secret of his younger brother's disappearance. On the surface, he is investigating the truth of the epidemic along with various forces, but in reality, his goal is to find his missing twin brother.
Although Chu Sijing's identity is that of a Jin Yi Wei, he possesses the qualities of a Western tragic hero, that is, he possesses morality and courage, representing the side of justice and fighting against evil forces, possessing extraordinary strength, and being ready to sacrifice himself at any time.
"The Mutations" also endows Chu Sijing with a modern sense of heroism. He does not possess a black-and-white value system, but rather a complex and ambiguous one. At the same time, the drama also showcases his intense personal and internal conflicts. This is mainly manifested through Chu Sijing's illusions, which can be understood as a telepathic connection between him and his brother, enabling him to sense his brother's presence, providing him with direction and motivation in his search for his brother.
While unraveling the current mystery, Chu Sijing also needs to find clues from his illusions, which constitutes his dual mission. This design makes the plot more rich and multi-layered, while also testing Chu Sijing's intelligence and judgment. This combination of reality and illusion is a typical characteristic of Eastern storytelling, and between truth and illusion, the audience will follow Chu Sijing in unraveling the fog.
The most important thing for Chinese people is family emotions, which is also a reflection of the Eastern spirit in this drama. In addition to the hero's courage, the attachment to family is also an important narrative core of the drama. Firstly, there is an emotional connection between Chu Sijing and his twin brother. He is not entirely concerned about comforting the people on the island or the origin of the disease, but rather, his relentless pursuit of the truth is because his brother may have suffered as well, as his brother disappeared on this island. On the other hand, Shen Cong's family also faces upheaval. Her mother died from the disease, and her father was infected and turned into a monster. She has been protecting the monster, preventing Chu Sijing from harming him, which reflects the complex contradiction between morality and personal emotions.
Overall, the drama showcases profound character development and struggles in multiple dimensions. This not only enhances the appeal of the story but also provides the audience with a deeper understanding of the characters' inner worlds. At the same time, through the combination of Eastern and Western storytelling, it permeates the transmission of Chinese spirit and traditional values.
After the premiere of "The Mutations", its popularity soared, indicating that the audience greatly appreciates this work that is filled with elements of fantasy adventure and Eastern aesthetic visual effects. The drama is different from others in terms of genre and aesthetic spirit, broadening the types of film and television works and providing a refreshing experience for the audience.