Scene II - Capture at Parthia

Venus Anh Scene II.jpg

>> Italian version available here






111 BC


The scene in the poem: After months of sailing from Vietnam, Mother Anh and Master Quyen land their boat at Parthia near the city of Gerrha (in the present area of Dammam, Saudi Arabia). Master Quyen is beheaded by local warriors who capture Mother Anh and take her on a merchant ship up the Euphrates river to the town of Borsippa near the ancient, abandoned city of Babylon. There, Mother Anh is enslaved in an iron workshop.


While writing this scene of the poem, I gave a lot of consideration to one of the central themes of the story which is that of hope –Mother Anh and Master Quyen escaped a war zone in search of some place safer, better. In this scene of the poem, what are Mother Anh’s thoughts? Does she regret fleeing Vietnam? How can she have any hope for a better future?



The image: Mother Anh is detained by Parthians in the town of Borsippa. The chains that bind her are symbolic of the constraints that she faced throughout her life. Contrastingly, her gaze to the outside world shows a detachment from her present condition – is she thinking of the past or dreaming of a better future? The linear grid of bars in the window conflict with her non-linear, unpredictable life. It is not clear if the trees outside her window are living or dead; this symbolises her unknown fate.



The making of the photograph: Taken at the Castle of Tassara, Italy, located in the Emilia-Romagna region in the northern Apennine mountains between Genoa and Milan. The core members of the production team took up residence at the castle for a period of nearly two weeks during which we had planned to shoot 18 scenes. The models were scheduled to come and go as required per the shooting schedule (most were based in Rome), and Ysabel Loh (“Mother Anh”) stayed at the castle for a week to complete her busy shooting program.


We found a few potential locations at the castle for this shot, and Johnny (location producer) helped us settled on this one inside a garage area at the end of the building. It was simple luck that we found a window with bars!



ML Sund