Le-Van Kiet on his lost at sea thriller ‘The Requin’

Photo courtesy of Saban Films
Photo courtesy of Saban Films

Writer/Director Le-Van Kiet reminds us that the ocean is unpredictable in his new thriller, The Requin.

There’s terror in paradise when Jaelyn (Alicia Silverstone) and Kyle (James Tupper) arrive at a remote seaside villa in Vietnam for a romantic getaway. A torrential storm descends, reducing the villa to little more than a raft and sweeping the young couple out to sea. Suddenly, another danger appears: a school of great white sharks. With her injured husband watching helplessly, Jaelyn must battle the deadly predators alone in this tense thriller that rides an unrelenting wave of fear.

Check out my Q&A with Le-Van!

Where did this story come from? What was your inspiration behind it?

Le-Van: When I was researching for the story , I ran across an article about an Indonesian boy who got swept away by a storm while still  in his hut. He ended up surviving for months and I just thought it was an extraordinary story of resilience.  I wanted our protagonists to be able to face nature’s wrath while trying to find peace with their past trauma. 

Jaelyn’s story is so heartbreaking and Alicia did an amazing job. What was the inspiration behind her character and focusing on the theme of loss? 

Le-Van: Jaelyn epitomizes stagnation.  She can’t cope or move past her trauma.  I use nature as several themes here. On one hand nature is a violent storm that can destroy but nature  also heals, pushing us to be survivalists and testing our existence.  That inspired me in her character, her will never to give up no matter what forces emotionally or physically come at her. 

What does Requin mean, and why make it the title of the movie?

Le-Van: I read Kurt Cobain’s reason behind his lyrics and he explained it as wordplay or kind of  nonsense but in essence mantras.  So, I tried that approach and wanted a title to have a sonic “requiem” feeling. 

There were a few moments after their room burned that made me think back to the Titanic and the debate about whether Jack and Rose could both fit on the door. Did you use any movies or anything for inspiration for shooting this movie? But also, where do you stand on that debate?

Le-Van: What do I think about raftgate? Haha, I think buoyancy  is everything and not many people realize it is a force of nature in itself.  So, what you see is not what you think.  

I always follow my character in order to dictate how things are shot. It is their journey and emotion that really tells me how to treat them.  As for the other stuff, I liked how “Open Water” changed the genre at the time.  And “The Reef” has always impressed me of how soulless nature can be.  

What do you think sets this movie apart from other lost at sea/shark movies?

Le-Van: I always come back to character. That’s the only way I can be unique enough. You love the protagonist enough to follow them to 90mins of dread, thrills, and fun.  That’s my ultimate hope is that audience will see this as a character piece. 

Where did you shoot this movie? The location is beautiful.

Le-Van: We shot in Florida and a few places in Vietnam. 

The VFX were really cool in this movie, and there seemed to be a lot of them. Can you comment on using VFX for a movie like this? 

Le-Van: The visual effects are meant to be part of the experience. I wanted people to believe they are in the middle of the ocean but essentially feel they are in a desert of hopelessness. You can’t drink the water or stay afloat forever. It is just a vastness of dangers at every corner. 

Photo courtesy of Saban Films
What was it like working with Alicia and James?

Le-Van: They have worked together before and really took time to hone in on the characters’ relationship. Most of Kyle and Jaelyn’s story is not on the screen. So, James and Alicia had to find a place where we can feel the weight of their relationship. 

Were they your first choices for Jaelyn and Kyle?

Le-Van: We had a few casting options but once they responded to the material, I immediately connected with them. Somehow I can’t imagine anyone else now. 

What was your favorite scene to shoot?

Le-Van: This has to be the hut breaking down scene where they are tossed like pillows inside their floating hotel. We staged it with so many people involved, from action coordinators, to special effects, and even a water expert.  It was fun when I heard a crew member say “this scene is like a ride at Universal Studios” 

What was the most challenging scene to shoot?

Le-Van: This would have to be when they were on the raft and having to give the most gut wrenching performance. We shot outside in a large pool , but the weather was not welcoming. We had to pause many times because of rain, and the actors got really cold. But they were very good at it and channeled all of this in their performance. I’m very grateful for that. 

Thank you so much for chatting with me, is there anything else that you would like to say about “The Requin”?

Le-Van: I hope people coming out of this film love their spouses more 🙂

Photo courtesy of Saban Films
The Requin will screen in select theaters beginning Jan. 28.