|Hero: China's most lavish movie to date|
|Zhang Yimou - director of Raise The Red Lantern - has turned his hand to a martial arts epic set in 2nd-century-BC China. Released in time for the Chinese New Year (goat/sheep), the film has drawn some political flak. This unfortunately ignores about 90% of the film's contents and shows more of the shallowness of the critics' thinking, rather than any deficit on the part of the movie. Just to balance things up a bit, these are some of the issues Hero deals with:|
x Use of four potential reasons to explain Nameless coming to within 10 paces of the security-conscious Emperor. Interesting and effective plot device. Lesson: things are not always as they appear and there are many possible answers to questions about circumstance and motive.
x Use of colour symbolism corresponding approximately to the Indian chakra system in a visually splendid fashion. Stunning beautiful film-making, showing China's varied landscape.
x The political hot potato: The first Chinese Emperor, Qin, who united the 7 warring kingdoms and created China.
Achievements: standardised weights, measures, currency and language. Began building the Great Wall.
Oops, mistake: autocratic, use of too much force.
These are issues that are still being wrestled with today (euro, USA in the Middle East & elsewhere), showing that humans are not exactly lightning-fast students of civilised behaviour. Instead of deciding whether Qin was entirely good or completely bad, rather teenage-level analysis, it might be better to emulate his good points and avoid his mistakes. Everyone contains Yin AND Yang.
x Employer and employee. So how did Broken Sword win his servant Moon's loyalty and love, to the point at which she would fight a losing battle and put her life in jeopardy to defend him? Many a modern management guru would love to understand that one. The answer is in the movie.
x Lovers. Another clear demonstration that jealousy and vengefulness harm one's prospects for love, happiness and life, while generous giving receives devotion and adoration in return.
x Self-sacrifice. The one gives up everything so that the many can have a better life. It is obviously admirable, but the tricky bit seems to be deciding which course of action will achieve the goal. Does a mistake in this area negate the value of the sacrifice? Personally, I don't think so, but it is certainly worthwhile giving the issue great consideration and consulting the history books before rushing in.
x Calligraphy and Swordsmanship. Check out Broken Sword's & Nameless' explanations of the relationship between the two and the elderly schoolmaster's views. Anyone who has ever trained with dedicated effort to achieve mastership of a skill will recognise this. Bunbu itchi - pen and sword in accord - is the Japanese take on the issue. When thought and action are combined skillfully, anything can be attained. Every stroke of the pen or blade must be purposeful. As Miyamoto Musashi said: "Do nothing which is of no use".
x Power and Leadership. What is it like to be an 'all-powerful' leader? 'All-powerful' is actually a PR concept, as King Canute demonstrated in the 10th century, when he nearly drowned while ordering the tide not to come in. Nobody remains in power for long by ignoring the unanimous opinion of their inner circle and most people would cave in when shouted at by 10 people, much less 3,000. Chen Dao-Ming does a good job of subtly depicting the Emperor's conflict of interest.
x East and West. Clearly a belief in reincarnation or a paradise of heroes makes a big difference in decision-making. Note the difference in ending of this and many other Asian films from the Western style.
See also: Time Asia - for a sensible review by Richard Corliss.
Abysmal: The Nation, Bangkok - for a load of rubbish by Hanuman.
submitted by Rebecca
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