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Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

Da hong deng long gao gao gua (original title)
A young woman becomes the fourth wife of a wealthy lord, and must learn to live with the strict rules and tensions within the household.

Director:

Yimou Zhang

Writers:

Su Tong (original novel "Wives and Concubines" by), Ni Zhen (scriptwriter)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 21 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Li Gong ... Songlian
Saifei He ... Meishan (Third Wife)
Jingwu Ma Jingwu Ma ... The Master
Cuifen Cao Cuifen Cao ... Zhuoyan (Second Wife)
Qi Zhao Qi Zhao ... Housekeeper
Lin Kong Lin Kong ... Yan'er
Shuyuan Jin Shuyuan Jin ... Yuru (First Wife)
Weimin Ding Weimin Ding ... Songlian's Mother (voice)
Zhengyin Cao Zhengyin Cao ... Old Servant
Zhigang Cui Zhigang Cui ... Dr. Gao (as Zhihgang Cui)
Chu Xiao Chu Xiao ... Feipu
Edit

Storyline

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 <seaman@sbbs.se>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

China, 1920. One master, four wives.

Genres:

Drama | History | Romance

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

China | Hong Kong | Taiwan

Language:

Mandarin

Release Date:

18 December 1991 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Raise the Red Lantern See more »

Filming Locations:

Taiyuan, Shanxi, China

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$2,603,061
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the "1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," edited by Steven Schneider. See more »

Goofs

Around 01:18:59, there is a lot of smoke in front of the third wife. And there is almost no smoke in front of the second one. See more »

Quotes

The Third Concubine: Good or bad, it's all playacting. If you act well, you can fool other people; if you do it badly, you can only fool yourself, and when you can't even fool yourself, you just can fool the ghosts.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The First Monday in May (2016) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Haunting, yet beautiful
13 June 2006 | by olgaryabayaSee all my reviews

It's been days since I've watched the movie and it still seems as though I'm haunted by it. A movie is yet to make the same impression on me. Yes, movies exist that cause frightening images every time you close your eyes, but they're mainly either based on gruesome scenes of blood and torture or involve ghosts and other somewhat fictional characters. Well, the director of Raise the Red Lantern required neither, the work, in my opinion, of a great artist and scholar of humankind and the human mind. From what we mainly know, only ghosts haunt the human world but what if we were to imagine that death is not necessary, and that instead our own selves can haunt the present even alive. What if through human suffering, rivalry, jealousy and the imprisonment of the mind we can destroy our souls and spirits. And what if even worse, it is not other ghosts or "evil spirits" that cause this, but our fellow human beings. I believe this is the reason why Raise the Red Lantern finds a small place deep inside its' viewers: it speaks of the horrifying effects of humankind that each one of us can be affected by – of death during life.

Songlian, only nineteen years of age, used to attend a University in China in the 1920's, all until her fate took a fatal turn leaving her in the mansion of a wealthy man, never to know the outside world again. This mansion does bring its luxuries: foot massages, a private room, your own "faithful" servant and somewhat of a husband - all until your servant becomes jealous of you, you rival with the Master's three other mistresses, and possibly countless others to come, and best of all, most of these luxuries are only provided so that you could better entertain and care for the Master, including bearing children for him. Once the women's' dreams are lost, what remains? - a need for passion and attention is something that each of the women rival for, and which some would be willing to do anything for, whether or not it be humane. Jealousy is strong and deception all the more so; the characters' lives are all intertwined and every action can cause a chain reaction, leading to the degradation of the human spirit and mind. What amazed me most about the director's work is the use of color to depict emotion and the techniques used to create tension, fear, struggle and a distinct message and point of view without ever having to show us the crime being committed. Every season throughout the story and every character, personality and emotion is linked to color. The various use of color tinting: demonstrating sunrise and sunset, light emitted by the red lantern in its different shading and position, the symbolism behind the red lantern and the women's condition within the mansion, and the draping in black curtains of Songlian's lanterns when she has committed a crime against tradition are both visually stunning and extremely effective in creating the mood of the time. Each woman's room fits hand in hand with their personality: the opera singers (Meishan's) elaborate and bright coloring as opposed to the First Mistress' dark, old wood furniture and darker clothing. And lastly, what I have seen few directors do, Zhang Yimou shows us less to make us feel more: scenes of torture and crimes, in many instances we are not shown them or the faces, instead we only view them from the perspective of one of the characters. The use of sound and long camera shots allows us to embody the characters and experience the story all the more, and because each of the four actresses dove deeply into the character of the women, this experience is truly amazing.


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