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China in the 1920's. After her father's death, nineteen year old Songlian is forced to marry Chen Zuoqian, the lord of a powerful family. Fifty year old Chen has already three wives, each of them living in separate houses within the great castle. The competition between the wives is tough, as their master's attention carries power, status and privilege. Each night Chen must decide with which wife to spend the night and a red lantern is lit in front of the house of his choice. And each wife schemes and plots to make sure it's hers. However, things get out of hand... Written by
Mattias Pettersson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I can certainly understand why this film is so critically acclaimed. Raise The Red Lantern is one of the only Chinese movies I've seen, but I'll definitely admit that it's unusual to see a film this stylistically masterful come out of Hollywood (although it can happen -- The Thin Red Line, for example). A lot of what makes this film work is Zhang Yimou's outstanding directorial style; his use of color against bleak background is especially effective. It's his hypnotic visuals that keep you interested throughout the slow progression of the story. And the amazing acting by most of the performers doesn't hurt, either; everything feels completely real.
I think of this as one of those movies that you aren't supposed to enjoy; it shocks you, and leaves you just as disturbed as, considering the subject matter, you should be. The miserable story of Yan'er, the servant girl, is especially painful to watch, and the same goes for the unfolding of the last few scenes. But I think the fact that I was so unsettled by this movie probably just goes to show how well it gets its points across. And along with the remarkable acting and directing, that's definitely something to be respected.
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