A 2004 martial arts masterpiece, this is one of my favourite films of all time. Fresh off the back of ‘Hero’ (another masterpiece), director Yimou Zhang created a sensory feast like nothing I had ever experienced before. So powerful were the images he created they still send a thrill through me every time I watch the film.
For those of you not particularly interested in the martial-art genre, the film is an explosion of imagery and story-telling with plot twists and characters that will keep you guessing and gasping in shock. For those of you who are seasoned martial-arts enthusiasts, the wuxia style film features incredible fight sequences mixed with the dancing prowess of Ziyi Zhang (also known for Hero, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha) which will leave you breathless.
The plot is a little more romance oriented than Hero (and most martial arts films) but this only adds to its allure. Writers Feng Li, Bin Wang and Yimou Zhang have constructed a complex interwoven tale of honour, love, death, intrigue and betrayal which only serves to fuel the emotion behind the incredible fight sequences further. Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Leo (Andy Lau) are two police officers who have been tasked with finding and killing the leader of the notorious ‘House of Flying Daggers’ rebel group. Leo tells Jin that a local blind girl, Mei (Ziyi Zhang), is suspected of being the late leader’s daughter. Jin proceeds to win over her trust in the hope that she will lead him to the rebel group’s headquarters. Naturally, they fall in love (probably the only obvious plot development) and things get really complicated.
This film is true breath-taking beauty in every sense of the word. Both sound and colour are used to stimulate the senses so they seem to almost ooze out of the screen.
The fight sequence in the bamboo forest is one so spectacular that is has gone down in history along with the drum sequence near the beginning of the film and the spectacular final sequence (filmed in the snow because the winter came early). It is just another testament to Yimou Zhang’s mastery that instead of cancelling and delaying filming due to the change in weather (it was originally meant to be filmed in the leafy Autumn), he adapted the film to integrate the snow with spectacular results.
So, if you have never seen this wonder of Chinese film-making, I implore you, do so, now. I promise you will not regret it.