During China's Tang dynasty the emperor has taken the princess of a neighboring province as wife. She has borne him two sons and raised his eldest. Now his control over his dominion is complete, including the royal family itself.
Set in China in the 1860's during the Taiping Rebellion, the story is based on the assassination of Ma Xinyi in 1870. Loyalist General Qingyun is the only survivor of a battle with ... See full summary »
Ancient China and the Qin Empire is out to conquer the six kingdoms. This makes its king a target for assassination. However, one man has single-handedly ensured the safety of the king, by killing the three most notorious assassins in the land. Treated as a hero, he is summoned for an audience with the king.Written by
(at around 23 mins) The emperor remarks, after hearing Nameless tell him that there are 19 ways to write the word "sword", that he would solve this problem. In history, he succeeded in enforcing only one writing system in the whole of China. This way, whatever dialect people speak, they would be using the same set of characters making communication a lot easier. See more »
On numerous occasions, it is possible to see the glue that molds the sides of Jet Li's wig to his head (it casts a plastic-like reflection in certain light). It's most noticeable during the fight with Ziyi Zhang("Moon"), when he traps one of her blades with his sword and there's a close-up of the side of his face, and at the very end, when he's reached the palace gate and turns towards the camera. See more »
I was orphaned at a young age and was never given a name. People simply called me Nameless. With no family name to live up to, I devoted myself to the sword. I spent ten years perfecting unique skills as a swordsman. The King of Qin has summoned me to court, for what I have accomplished has astonished the kingdom.
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The Director's Cut was 107:15 minutes, compared to the theatrical version at 96:23 minutes. See more »
A few things about this film struck me. My background coming into it is as an East Asian Studies major - I studied the language, culture, literature, film, history, religion, and politics of China. This was all done in undergrad so I am by no means the last word on the subject.
First of all, I noticed heavy use of Daoist symbols. The five elements were used - one per fight - fire, wind, water, wood, and metal. A message in the film seemed to show the Daoist idea that the harder you try, the worse you do, as Moon did in her fights. On the other hand, if you can go with the Dao (think: Use the force, Luke), you will succeed.
Second, I did not know before watching the film that it was Zhang Yimou's. His films are often critical of the Chinese Communist Party and sometimes have deep allegorical meaning. Some of his films are banned in China. Hero, on the other hand, seemed to be intensely nationalistic. Lately in China, the communist government has promoted nationalism (instead of populist Communist values as they did pre-1976) with a great degree of success. The use of the word "Tianxia" (literally "all under heaven," translated in the movie was "Our Land") seems Confucian and nationalistic at the same time. Although I would have not guessed this film was by Zhang Yimou from the plot or message, the cinematography was unmistakable. Hero eerily reminded me of another film, Yellow Earth (Huang Tudi), which Zhang Yimou did not direct but for which he did the cinematography.
Third, historically, Hero lacked in a few very obvious places. The Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, was legendary for his fear of death and his Machiavellian rule. When his character states that he no longer fears death because of Broken Sword's words and invites Nameless to kill him, he is entirely breaking with the true historical figure of the emperor. Remember, this is the emperor who built an entire terracotta army to protect him from his enemies in death and spent a lot of money and effort looking for the secret to reach immortality. He was known for a Confucian philosophy spin-off known as Legalism, which is very similar to Western Machiavellianism. While his quick mind (or his advisor's) might have figured out Nameless's plot, he would never have hesitated in executing him.
Overall, this seems like a break from the usual genre one would expect from Zhang Yimou. I am not sure exactly what message he is trying to convey with this film, other than an endorsement of Chinese nationalism and perhaps Daoism as well.
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