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In 19th-century China, seven year old girls Snow Flower and Lily are matched as laotong - or "old sames" - bound together for eternity. Isolated by their families, they furtively communicate by taking turns writing in a secret language, nu shu, between the folds of a white silk fan. In a parallel story in present day Shanghai, the laotong's descendants, Nina and Sophia, struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers, complicated love lives, and a relentlessly evolving Shanghai. Drawing on the lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection, hidden from them in the folds of the antique white silk fan, or risk losing one another forever.Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Zhang Ziyi was originally cast as Nina before dropping out of the film. Li Bingbing signed on to replace her. See more »
The last paragraphs of the unsent letter that Nina found in Sophias apartment, which can be seen when she closes the notebook, don't match Nina's voice-over. See more »
People say I'm sending Sebastian and Nina to New york so neither will take my job. Hey, perhaps that's partly true. You know, like these butterflies that surround us this evening, it's a time of transformation, new beginnings.
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Laotung and Nu shu: Two of the pleasures of a lovely story
SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN is the cinematic adaptation of Lisa See's popular novel by writers Angela Workman, Ron Bass and Michael K. Ray and director Wayne Wang. The film unveils parallel stories between 19th century China and present day Shanghai - the tales of two women joined by laotong - a binding vow and contract to be eternal friends and share each others lives - communicating with a secret women's language called nu shu, carefully inked characters placed on the folds between the spines of a silken fan. By using the same actresses to play the parts of the girls two centuries apart adds a mysterious beauty to the films alluring flavor.
In 1826 Lily and Snow Flower become laotung and though they are from opposite ends of the social stratum they become devoted friends, undergoing the ritual of having their feet broken and bound to remain very small as adults - apparently a desired attribute for physical attraction as a potential bride. The poor girl is chosen for marriage by a wealthy family and the rich girl is promised to a butcher, an extreme reversal of roles in society and it is the manner in which each adapts and aids the other that demonstrates the depth of the bond of laotong. Concurrently in the film we meet Nina and Sophie in contemporary Shanghai: Nina has gained education and stature and is due to move to New York as part of an important business. Sophie is in an accident and only slowly do we realize that Sophie had the promise of moving to Australia to marry an Aussie singer (Hugh Jackman), more because she is pregnant than for love. Because of the laotung between Nina and Sophie the two make sacrifices that overcome all else to prove their loyalty. There are many parallels in the two stories that show a bond between the two sets of girls and to capture this bond securely the two girls form centuries apart are played by the same actresses: Lily/Nina become the roles of Bing Bing Li and Snow Flower/Sophie are portrayed by Gianna Jun. The supporting cast is carefully chosen and uniformly fine.
The sets and costumes and music enhance this film significantly. It is not a great epic of a movie, but it has a tender and touching story that is very well told by everyone involved.
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