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Raise the Red Lantern is one of the best Chinese movies I have seen.
The acting is so realistic, the time and location is historic and
exotic, and the colors and music is just luscious. On top of that is
the story line which is tragic yet beautiful.
This movie is the perfect depiction of competition and deception. Those who you think of as friends are actually your enemies. Those closest to you will betray you. Those that you cannot stand might as well be your closest allies. And in the end, are all the layers of deception and pointless competition really worth it?
I really recommend this film. The pace might be a bit slow, but it perfectly fits the mood of the movie and it gives you time to think about what happens next.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This beautifully made film ranks high among my list of favorite movies.
One reason is because of its film star, Li Gong, who I loved in Ju Dou,
Memoirs of a Geisha, and Curse of the Golden Flower. The second reason
is because of Director Yimou Zhang who directed Ju Dou, Hero, House of
the Flying Daggers, and Curse of the Golden Flower, all films that
should be on your IMDb watchlist if you haven't seen them. The third
reason is the exquisite writing and plot. The film is about 19 year old
Songlian (Li Gong) whose family falls on hard times after the death of
her father. She marries into the wealthy Chen family and becomes the
fourth wife of Master Chen. The competition for his attention and
affection among the wives is fierce. This is because the Master decides
on a daily basis which wife he will spend the night with. Whomever he
chooses gets her lanterns lit and special treatment including a foot
massage, her choice of food at mealtime, and the most attention and
respect from the servants. The first wife is routinely passed over so
the other wives ignore her but the remaining wives hate each other and
resort to trickery and backstabbing. The unhealthy environment leads to
This film is one that will have you continuing to look at the screen five minutes after it has ended. The wonderfully rich colors shown in the movie are in sharp contrast to the dark, depressing life of Songlian who once dreamed of a happy life before being forced into marriage
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's no secret that Zhang Yimou directs some of the beautiful movies in
cinema history. His extensive and vivid use of colour is gorgeous. More
than 10 years before he directed his modern-classics, Hero and House of
Flying Daggers, Raise the Red Lantern was there. The film has a simple
storyline, a restricted location and a great cinematography. Oh, and it
also employs beautiful use of colour. Sometimes I think Zhang Yimou is
a product of an explosion in a colour factory.
Raise the Red Lantern quite literally pits 4 women against each other and the film observes enviness, jealousy, hatred, anger, love & sorrow. Also, to some extend, Totalitarianism. Every woman wants to be the top mistress in front of the master and wants the red lanterns hung in front of their house. The 4th Mistress quickly catches the eye of her personal maid, Ya'ver, the 3rd Mistress & the 2nd Mistress. One thing leads to another and the 3rd Mistress ends up dead, the maid ends up dead, and the 4th Mistress goes insane, causing The Master to marry once more. Enter 5th Mistress, but thank goodness the film ends there, because another 2 hours would've been hectic. Not that I would've minded it, but enough is enough! I think the appropriate title should've been Personality Clash or This is how Women silently kill each other, or something like that.
The pacing of the film is good. The slow and smooth camera movements did the trick. Red Lantern also employs repetition and I think it was a good move. It kept reminding us of what we're watching and what the film's story is all about. Unlike Hero or House of Flying Daggers which were clearly story-driven, this film was more character-and-music driven. The heavy metal? background music was awesome and I think it perfectly matches the mood and characteristics of the film and the women, respectively.
From the performances, Gong-Li had the upper-hand, while He Caifi was just a rung below, but both were amazing in their characters. They both, out of all, portrayed the frustration, the anger, the hidden hatred, and then a sudden affection for each other, almost perfectly. The film was entirely on their shoulders and both handled the weight flawlessly!
My ending note will be: Not just a great film. A landmark film! It has characters which are divided in two: Either you end up hating them, or loving them. A quite-powerful film that demands a repeat!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film itself is quite perfect in most aspects. The story is a
replica of a feudal society family in old China. It tells a story of a
young student who is forced to drop out of university and marry a
wealthy business man due to poor economic reasons. What is worse, she
is the fourth wife.
The casting is also fabulous to include Gong Li and even the male protagonist who never reveals his face during the whole film is a very professional actor.
The description of atmosphere is another thing that is adding colors. It is very oppressive living in such a yard isolated with the outside world. The silence of the yard, the red lanterns which are strong in symbolism both escalate exquisiteness of the film.
The husband, the four wives and the servants living in the yard is a miniature of feudal society which is full of power, status, deceit and conspiracy.Songlian thinks she is educated and different from the the rest of family. Actually, she is not. The power of the surrounding environment is so overwhelming that she unconsciously turns into one member of them as she gradually gets used to the life there.
In the end, she becomes crazy for seeing the third wife killed; however, the story is unfinished with the coming of another prospective victim, the fifth wife.
The film Raise The Red Lantern is one of the most famous film of Yimou Zhang. It is a successful film. Under the rule of polygamy, the film narrated a tragic story. All the concubines live in a big house, the relationship between these concubines are not good, it bring a lot of strife openly and secretly. Song Lian is the main character of the film, the actress (Gong Li) made a perfect performance. The director Yimou Zhang used the simple scene and language to show viewers a shocking story, and also criticize the rotten old society. I think that the film have a lot of mentionable aspects.
First of all, the film is full of Chinese characteristics. In the film, the traditional thought (Confucianism) showed in some plots. The steward always mentioned that all of people should obey the old rules. All the four concubines wanted to have a son. In ancient China, man have important position in a family. All the women should be compliant and loyal to their husband, or they will be punished. The third concubine was hang because of her disloyalty. The whole messuage likes a society, all the people are influenced by old rules, the patriarchy is entrenched. Besides, the costume of the film is filled with traditional element, the messuage is also Chinese outdatedbuilding. The music of the film used a lot of blow and beat mode. In addition, the third concubine performs the Beijing opera, which is traditional Chinese culture.
Secondly, I want to say the character of the film and the stage set are well-designed. Especially the role of Song Lian, she is an undergraduate, so she has new ideas in that age. Because of that, in the film, Song Lian did not sit bridal sedan chair, took the luggage by herself, and did not like foot massage. However, as the time going, she became a depraved person. The design of this character highlight the feudal thought has huge influence in that period, even though the educated undergraduate also cannot escape its influence. In addition, the first wife is an old woman, the second concubine is a deceitful person, the third concubine is a singer of drama. These four women have different backgrounds and personalities, these arrangements enrich the storyline. What's more, there are many detailed design about stage set. The four women have different designs of room. The first wife is an old woman, so her boudoir is dark, the furniture is old, and the clothing is fuscous. The third concubine is a singer of Beijing opera, thus her room is full of dramatic element.
Thirdly, I think the film has ingenious narrative approach and good foreshadowing. Director made use of the four seasons (summer, autumn, winter, spring) to narrate a whole story. It is simple and clear, but it is quite impressive. The beginning of the film is the dialogue between Song Lian and stepmother, the last words of Song Lian said: "woman is just like that", and then there are two lines of tears on her face. This scene let audience know the film is about the tragedy of woman. It is also a good foreshadowing for the following story. Besides, the word conflict between Song Lian and Yan'er is also an important foreshadowing for the succedent things.
Fourthly, I think the use of long shot, close-up and music make the film more resultful. At the beginning of the film, there is a close-up on Song Lian for a few minutes. With the background of white window, the atmosphere has sense of loneliness and futureless. Director used a lot of long shot and close-up on red lantern, it work in concert with the title of film. In the film, master is a lightspot, as he never has full-face shot. Director through words embody the existence of master. Although we cannot see the face of master completely, the role of master fully reflect the patriarchy, he is a marblehearted people. This is a deliberate arrangement, it can serve as a foil to the dark of feudalism. In this film, a large amount of music is dramatic music. This can reflect the epitasis and the depressive atmosphere of the big house. The sound of foot massage is gripping, the singing of the Mei Shan (the third concubine) is bleak. The combination between lens shift and music make the character and atmosphere very dismal.
Finally, I feel the scene of the film is exquisite, it is cinematography. The red lantern plays an important role. When the servants kindle the lanterns, the whole surroundings are full of vitality. However, when the servants extinguish the red lanterns, the whole environment is hopeless and tenebrous. This contrast further highlights the theme of the film. In addition, the scene of the four seasons is true to nature. Especially in winter, the landscape is beautiful, it is like a perfect picture.
In a word, the film is well worth seeing. The story, the shoot, the costume, stage set and the music are all art. The film Raise The Red Lantern is a classic work.
I find the front of the film a tad too slow but perhaps thats the mood and
foundation on which Zhang Yi Mou wants the rest of the film needs to be
built on. Bleakness is used as a building block, reflected both in the
cinematography (use of colour and camera angles) and pacing of the plot in
the frontal section of the film (slow and lengthy). With that, the
can feel the atmostphere and emotion of the situation in the film. It
orientates the audience about the family, the traditions and lifestyle as
well as the underlying conflicts.
Soon enough, the plot starts to heighten, showing more conflict between the mistresses, with the old master and with the servants. The plot flows amazingly well, using the different characters to drive situations and thrust the story forward.
The twists in the plot adds dimension to the story and make you jump from hate, to like, to sympathy for the characters, bringing on a journey; almost toying with your feelings. The finger is pointed at you when you switch from siding one mistress to the other and from fourth mistress to Yan Er.
The use of colour is motivated. It brings out the atmostphere in the film, portraying sadness and entrapment that the main character feels. Unlike in similar chinese films where colour is plainly used to bring out the richness, wealth and grandeur of the chinese people and thier culture (The Last Emperor), this film portrays normal everyday scenes in cold bleak colour but uses colour at key points in the plot to convey a message as to how the feeling is at that time. Even when colour is used, it is not to portray warmth but used to convey darkness and haunt.
The story ends proving that nothing has changed, providing a powerful blow that contributes to the sorrow of the story.
"Raise the Red Lantern," the story of a college-educated young woman who
becomes the fourth wife to a wealthy man in imperial China, made an
indelible impression on me when I first saw it in the theater. It gets off
to something of a slow start (the first 20 minutes or so), but then the
tension begins to build and the film becomes a gripping psychological drama.
One thing I found appealing about "Red Lantern" is that while the film
portrays a brutally patriarchal system in which women are clearly very
oppressed and dependent on their lord and master for everything, it does not
idealize the women or turn them into doe-eyed, sweet, saintly victims. The
wives and concubines are resourceful, smart, competitive, and very
determined to make the best of their situation... in any way they can. They
can even be cruel and downright evil. Forget the cliche that men are
interested in power and women are interested in love. These women are
definitely interested in power and status -- though, of course, the only way
they can obtain it is by winning the husband's favor. Yet their power
struggles are just as ruthless as anything that happens in the "male" world
of politics, business, or war, and just as fascinating to
The exquisitely lovely Gong Li is superb as the tragic heroine, Songlian. Excellent performances, too, by the other women. Visually, the film is strikingly beautiful; the camera lovingly caresses every detail of the interiors, while the severity of the outdoor in winter occasionally provides a stark contrast to the luxury of the indoors. Sometimes the visuals are almost too lush, yet the style does not detract from the substance.
A must-see, for anyone with a grown-up attention span.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this only once when I was a young woman. I found it riveting and
I am not going to try to repeat what everyone else said, but I want to say something else.
When I reflected on the movie, I thought about the order of the marriages. The first wife was the master's same age. She must have been a beautiful local girl at them time of her wedding, but nothing "special". Now she is an old woman resigned to eternally live in the shadows. She tries to make the best of her situation. She has no illusions about how things are, unlike her replacement sisters who are still vying for "love" from the master. Wife #1 seems aloof, but she knows the rules and she bids her time, like a cat. When she gets her chance to strike, she does not hesitate to kill.
The second wife was younger, a cute, chubby face, and always laughing. She must have been a young, fun, exciting diversion from the first wife when he married her. But eventually, he got bored with her and moved on.
The next wife was a famous opera singer. The master must have grown rich by the time he married her; and she was glamorous, exotic, sought after and talented. Who wouldn't want to marry a star? He must have convinced her that since she was marrying a rich man, and she was so admired, that he would "love" her forever. Then he married her and put his new jewel in a box, only to be played with when he felt like it.
Now comes our protagonist: very young, very beautiful and educated. She is not in love, but only in it for the financial reasons room and board. Her stepmother took her dreams of an independent life and turned her into a whore. The master said something about an "educated woman being different". Apparently, with each wife, he was always looking for something new and different. But the bottom line is this: she is just another sex object for him. I remember first wife said, "How old are you? 19? Such sins". She knows her husband is just a selfish, sex-crazed, dirty old man.
And then there is the slave girl: why bother MARRYING her when . . . .
At the end of the movie: Wife #5: a child. Now I know why #1 said, "Such sins". How will this child survive in this deadly house? I recommended this movie.
Raise the Red Lantern is a film directed by Zhang Yimou which is an
adaptation of the novel Wives and Concubines by Su Tong. The film deals
with a number of issues and handles them with meticulous craftsmanship.
It is a masterpiece in every aspects ranging from storyline to
technical sophistry. This review will be focused on various necessary
aspects of the film but there will be no commentary over it as an
adaptation. The discussion will cover its plot, characters, technical
elements, sound and theme.
The setting of the film is 1920s China. Songlian (Gong Li) is an educated girl who had to marry a rich feudal patriarch because of her mother's will when her father dies. She therefore becomes the fourth mistress of the family that maintains traditions and its orthodoxy rigorously. She finds herself within a suffocating confinement. Her sole focus is narrowed down to get the attention of the master likewise the other "sisters". Interestingly; along with physical satisfaction, the wives' charm in the house seems to rest on getting the foot massage which is given to the particular wife with whom the master will be 'spending' his night. Songlian is a quick learner who starts tricking and fooling other "sisters" just like the way they do. She builds a good relationship with the second wife (Cao Cuifen) and does not quiet get along with the third one. With a number of twisting discoveries, Songlian keeps on gaming until she uncovers something grave in a state of drunkenness in her 20th birthday.
The character of Songlian is the most craftily characterized one in the film. While other characters, especially second and third wives are seen to be only fussily engaged in grabbing the master's attention, Songlian projects an amazing amount of sentimentality, sensibility, anger and calculability. Songlian's maid is also an important character who is characterized to a credible degree. Within a confinement of rules, traditions and orthodoxy; Songlian and her maid have expressions that are praiseworthy. The master and First wife's son Feipu plays a precise but significant role. Other characters serve up to their demand of the plot. This is one of the very few films where there are no unnecessary characters. Moreover, the acting is superb.
The film has brilliant editing and incredibly meticulous cinematography. Kudos must be given to the cinematographer Yang Lun and Zhao Fei. The cinematography is so amazingly mathematical that it turns out to be a work of art. The precision reminds of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin and some of its legendary cinematography. Editing is very smooth and the superimposition in the last sequence are also uncannily perfect. The screenplay deserves a bow. It's literally hard to find any flaws in the technical sector of the film.
The film uses very little sound. The songs of the "Third Mistress" are enchanting. The introductory music which is repeated several times in the film is very purposive and upholds the stereotypical fact that it is a Chinese film.
The film deals with a number of themes. There is something graver than mere sentimentality because it must not be forgotten that this film was banned by the Chinese Government. The film has all the dramatic themes necessary to make a film attractive. But the main theme of the film serves as a critique of Confucianism that means it is a satire of the theory of a good family. Songlian's condition by the end of the film can be a critical psychoanalytical reading.
To be conclusive, the film is a must watch for both film critics and movie-goers. The film critics will surely find this to be a soothing experience. On the other hand, movie-goers will surely have a good time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film is a beautifully crafted and richly detailed feat of
consciousness-raising and serious drama with the verve of a good soap
opera. Against her family's wishes, a teenage girl (Gong Li) in 1920s
China becomes the fourth wife of a rich merchant, and finds herself
competing for her husband's good will against his other wives.
Raise The Red Lantern is an enthralling examination of a male-dominated society; director Zhang Yimou uses colour schemes, meticulously symmetrical compositions and stylised interiors to evoke an inflexible society. It is a film of ravishing formal beauty - to the extent that its look threatens to soften the ugly aspects of the society it depicts.
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