“<<Phantom of the Theater>> Wins Best Film”
“Deep Analysis of <<Phantom of the Theater>> What is So Good About It?”
“Understanding the Classic Lines From <<Phantom of the Theater>>.”
“Actor Bai Rong: Being able to act in <<Phantom of the Theater>> is the luckiest thing that has happened in my life.”
…What was going on? Did Director Chen hire people to write positively about his film on the internet? But it was impossible to do it to this extent. Every critic website actually increased their score for <<Phantom of the Theater>> from an average of 4 to an average of 9, they even made up such high box office numbers and awards, what was Director Chen thinking?
The fingers with which Ning Ning were using to swipe on her phone froze, it stopped on a post.
The title of the post was: “Exposing the True Tragedy That Happened While Filming <<Phantom of the Theater>>.”
Ning Ning stared at the title for a while before tapping on the link.
At first glance there was an old photo. In the photo was Orchid Theater from 1988, there was a row of people standing in front of the entrance, she recognised every single one of them—they were all from the movie she just got out of! The director, the actors and the rest of the crew!
Ning Ning’s chest heaved, she felt her breaths turning a little heavy.
“Right, what do you want to eat for dinner?” Her manager asked as he was driving.
“Anything.” Ning Ning didn’t have time to think about dinner at the moment. She took two deep breaths then she began to read the content of the post word by word.
A draft of an interview was uploaded with the post.
The interviewee was Director Chen who was young, vigorous and in his prime.
“The success of <<Phantom of the Theater>> lies within a murder case.” He spoke his mind in front of the reporter, “No one would have watched my film if not for the murder case.”
How did a film from, essentially, a new face attract the attention of the public? It relied on the news of someone’s death.
In 1987, on the eve of the day <<Phantom of the Theater>> was supposed to begin filming, the Socialite who was supposed to act as the Wealthy Lady was murdered.
“When the movie was released, there were two types of people in the audience.” Chen Guan Chao said, “One was the people who came to watch the movie, the other was the people who came to look at the murderer.”
Not long after the Socialite died, rumours started swirling in the public. Every newspaper had “Orchid Theater”, “Phantom of the Theater”, “Murderer” in its headlines, some tabloids even made up the details of the murder without a baseline. It was unknown whether all of them thought alike or if someone paid them off, every newspaper had the same person as the murderer—Miss Wen.
“Who is Miss Wen? She was a rookie actress.” Chen Guan Chao said, “She was a very hardworking and talented actress. For the sake of acting as the Phantom, she spent long periods of time sleeping in a coffin, not consuming warm food and drinks, she even cut off interactions with other people…I really liked this part of her.”
He said that he liked her, but he never helped clear her name. It was not until <<Phantom of the Theater>> started showing in cinemas that he told the truth to the public. He told everyone that she was not a murderer, she was but another victim, she even saved someone and perished along with the actual murderer. Before that, there were all sorts of rumours flooding the public, the smaller newspapers were still saying that Miss Wen was the actual murderer.
“No, no, no. Those small papers wrote that themselves, I did not pay them off to have them write it.” Chen Guan Chao laughed as he answered the reporters queries, “I was only staying silent, that is not illegal right? Of course, to compensate her, I have already found a place for the child she left behind. I believe that her spirit will forgive me for the sake of the child.”
In the pursuit of art, in the pursuit of a movie, in the pursuit of the market, he was so unscrupulous, stooping low enough to sacrifice the reputation of the dead.
Was this type of person worth forgiveness? There were two types of replies in the post. One felt that he could be forgiven, the other type felt that he was inhumane. The two camps argued with each other, suddenly another discussion emerged. “Hmm? Is the person on the right most side of the photo Ning Yu Ren?”
Ning Ning was dazed for a while, she scrolled back to the photo at the start. To her surprise, a young Mama was really in the photo.
It was not just Ning Ning, the other netizens were also very surprised. Someone said, “What the hell, my goddess took part in this movie too? What did she act as? Why didn’t I see her?”
The netizens went digging for information. Upon doing so, they found out that Ning Yu Ren had actually spent time with the cast, and she was not there for a small role, she was the reserve for the Phantom! After tragedy befell Miss Wen, logically speaking she should have taken over as the Phantom, why did it end up being Bai Rong? Why did she leave the cast without a word? Why did the natural-born director and natural-born actress cut off their relations at the beginning of this movie?
There were too many truths hidden in the rubble of time.
Too many things were misinterpreted as the truth!
Ning Ning suddenly closed the post and began to search for the video source of <<Phantom of the Theater>>. They could make up news, they could edit the photos, but they could not fabricate the actual movie!
She found the video and tapped on the play button!
The opening theme song started playing, Li Bo Yue looked at her from the corner of his eyes. “You’re watching this again even after watching it many times before?”
Ning Ning did not answer him, her eyes were locked onto the screen. For the sake of researching the role of Phantom, she had already watched this movie ten plus times, so she was very certain that the movie she had seen before and the movie she was watching now were two completely different movies!
“…It really changed.” She mumbled, she suddenly turned over to Li Bo Yue and said, “Can we do this another time?”
Li Bo Yue was puzzled, “Hmm?”
“I just remembered that I have something important to do.” Ning Ning said, “Can we eat together on another day?”
Li Bo Yue agreed. He wanted to send her home, but Ning Ning rejected him, “Let me off here, I will take a taxi.”
She did not go home when she got on the taxi, instead she took a deep breath and told the driver an address, “35 Rouge Street, thank you.”
35 Rouge Street, entrance of Life Theater.
With the sound of a car coming to a screeching halt, the Doorman who was dozing off while leaning on the wall slowly opened his eyes. He looked at the mobile phone in front of him then his sight followed the mobile phone up towards Ning Ning’s face.
Ning Ning raised the mobile phone in front of him and stared at him, “It was all real, right?”
Her phone was playing <<Phantom of the Theater>>. Ning Ning deliberately seeked to the end of the movie, the Phantom had died on the vast snowy ground. As she was dying, she held the hand of the male lead, she smiled gently. “Before I met you, I have always been a ghost, because of you, I was able to come alive.”
“…The original ending was not like this, this is…” Ning Ning gulped, “This was what happened to me…”
A gust of wind blew past, it shook the two clusters of lanterns in front of the entrance. Ning Ning looked up at the signboard of the theater, she looked at the three big words “Life Movie Theater”.
“…What exactly is this place?” Ning Ning mumbled, “Why did the things that happen in the movie come true?”
“I have already told you.” The Doorman finally spoke, he told her slowly, “Don’t come back here anymore, this place is not as good as you imagine it to be.”
Ning Ning did not think much of his words previously, but now she felt chills.
Especially because of the countless staff members standing within the door behind him.
They were all wearing a mask, but the masks were unable to mask the greed and desire in their eyes. Suddenly, a little lady wearing a qipao1 with the mask of a lady took out a movie ticket and handed it to her, “For you.”
Then a woman with a crying old woman mask took out a movie ticket and handed it to her, “For you.”
After that, a third, a fourth, each and every staff member took out a movie ticket. Countless black legs stood upon the entrance of the theater, countless pale hands reached out towards Ning Ning, countless voices converged together, voices of all ages told her, “For you.”
Ning Ning had once longed for a movie ticket, but at this moment, she could not help but took two steps back, her back was feeling a mild chill.
Seeing her retreat, a staff member wearing a scholar mask seemed a little impatient. He rushed out from the inside and shouted as he shoved the ticket into Ning Ning’s hands, “For you, for you!”
But an arm reached out from behind him and grabbed his hair, forcefully pulling him back. Once he was pulled back, another arm slowly raised towards him.
Ning Ning was stunned by what happened next.
1 A traditional Chinese dress, below is a picture for reference