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Sacrifice (Orphan of Zhao Family): To save the only child of the Zhao Family, whose whole clan is massacred at the hands of a nefarious minister, a doctor sacrifices his own son, and later becomes intent on seeking vengeance against the minister after the child grows up. For generations, the Zhao family has wielded power, even extending over the king. In a well-planned coup, their mortal enemy TU'AN GU (Wang Xue Qi) slaughters the entire clan, determined to wipe out their influence forever. However, a solitary Zhao baby survives the massacre, and is hidden and taken home by CHENG YING (Ge You), the doctor who delivered him, to live with his WIFE (Hai Qing) and their own newborn baby. Set on revenge, and raising the Zhao child as his own, Cheng Ying bides his time, enrolling himself and the Zhao orphan (whom he calls Cheng Bo) into the service of the Tu'an Gu household. Tu' an Gu grows very fond of Cheng Bo and makes Cheng Bo his godson, unaware that Cheng Ying has been plotting to use... Written by
"SACRIFICE" is Chen Kaige's third adaptation of China's stage plays.
Set in the Warring States period, the opening sequences show an excited
Dr Cheng Ying (played by the cool and talented Ge You) welcoming the
birth of his son. As the court physician, Cheng Ying is also thrilled
about delivering the child of General Zhao, whose wife Zhuangji (Fan
Bing Bing) gives birth at a tragic time when the mutinous General Tuan
Gu (Wang Xueqi) stages an elaborate assassination of his lord and pins
the blame on General Zhao. This gives Tuan Gu the perfect excuse to
wipe out the entire Zhao clan.
However, the newborn Zhou prince - and heir to the throne - is placed
in the care of Cheng Ying (Ge You), forcing Tuan Gu to order all babies
in the city be rounded up as hostages. In a cruel twist of fate,
Cheng's own baby is killed, and poor doctor is left to raise the Zhao
boy, nicknamed Bo'er, as his own. As a form of revenge, Cheng schemes
to have Bo'er become the godson of Tuan Gu so that the boy may one day
learn the truth and claim the throne.
The first half hour of the movie is totally riveting. The tale of Tuan
Gu's betrayal is lavishly portrayed in detailed settings and sets. The
assassination conspiracy is mind-bogglingly complicated, involving a
killer dog, a poisonous insect and a case of harmless wine. These court
intrigue scenes alternate with those involving Cheng and the birth of
Zhuangji's baby, raising the movie's tempo and our pulses, culminating
in Cheng's shocking 'sacrifice'.
Indeed, after this sort of build-up, what follows has to be somewhat of
a lull. Still, director Chen Kaige tries to work up our anticipation
with the 'revenge' plot involving Cheng, a rather mellowed Tuan Gu and
the Zhao boy, Bo'er. The pace slackens a great deal here and it is Ge
You's performance that keeps our minds from wandering off.
Chen keeps the revenge plot morally ambiguous (and not very convincing)
but the sacrifice of one's son cuts deeply into China's audiences who
have experienced the Government's one-child policy. The play "Orphan of
Zhao" from which this movie is adapted, was a feudal propaganda that
exalts loyalty to the aristocracy. Chen's adaptation offers an
interesting study on how fatherly love can be used as a tool for
vengeance, to cultivate pain and regret. "Sacrifice" is not Chen
Kaige's masterpiece, but it is worth watching.
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