Chinese Cinema, Martial Arts, Romance

House Of Flying Daggers (2004)

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Chinese films are known for their sumptuous visuals, and this film is certainly no exception. This film truly is a work of art; from the stunning colour photography, to the beautiful costumes and locations used, to the gorgeous score by Shigeru Umebayashi (my favourite part of the score being the lovers theme.)

This is my favourite Chinese film. I’ve seen this one so many times, but even though I know what’s going to happen, the look of this film still leaves me open mouthed in awe. If you are after other visually impressive films like this, then I also highly recommend Curse of the Golden Flower (2006).

House of Flying Daggers is directed by Zhang Yimou, and it really touches my soul; it features two very moving love stories and an ending that will break you heart. I also like how it plays with the audience and keeps you believing one thing until a surprising truth is revealed that you didn’t expect.

The film is classed as a wuxia/romance. Wuxia is a Chinese genre that focuses on stories about characters who are skilled in the martial arts. This film features some spectacular, gravity defying martial arts fights. My personal favourite fight sequence in this is the one in the green bamboo forest.

The film is set in ninth century China. The House of Flying Daggers is a revolutionary group opposing the corrupt government. Two police officers; the highly experienced Leo (Andy Lau)and the younger, but equally capable Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are tasked with finding the leader of the Daggers and killing them. The trouble is nobody but those in the group know the current leaders identity. Leo arrests a young blind dancer called Mei(Ziyi Zhang), as she is suspected to be the daughter of the groups previous leader.

Once she is in jail, Mei is rescued by Jin (posing as a revolutionary, in a deception arranged by Leo),his rescue of her makes certain that he gains her trust. The couple flee across open country and forests to try and reach the Daggers headquarters. Unbeknown to either of them, Leo and his men are following them. There are also other people following and watching the pair. As they spend more time together, an undeniable bond begins to grow between Mei and Jin. The pair slowly realise they are falling in love.

I can’t say anymore about the plot without spoiling the three major twists that are revealed to us later in the film. These make you reassess everything you have watched and are totally unexpected.

Ziyi Zhang is one of my favourite actresses, and I think her performance here is out of this world. Ziyi makes Mei extremely vulnerable, yet strong and capable. She has adapted to her blindness and learnt to use her hearing in a way that ensures she is aware of what is going on around her. Mei has gained fame for her echo dance(one of the best remembered and most beautiful scenes in the film)in which the accuracy and precision of her hearing is put to the test. Later in the ambush in the field, we see how Mei’s hearing and martial arts skills allows her to be a formidable fighter despite her disability.

Andy Lau is excellent as the observant and patient police captain. He is clever and resourceful and will get what he wants. Lau is always a solid actor, but he is extremely good here.

I wasn’t familiar with Takeshi Kaneshiro before I first saw this film, and I still need to see more of his work, but I’m very impressed with his performance here. The way he conveys to us his growing love and affection for Mei is done so well and seems so genuine. He makes Jin observant and capable of taking care of himself.

My favourite scenes are the following. The fight in the bamboo forest. The echo game sequence, which ends with a gravity defying sword sequence. The scene at the forest bath. The reunion between the two former lovers at the Daggers headquarters. Jin picking flowers on horseback for Mei.

This is an exciting and moving film. If you love martial arts this is one for you. The film is romantic and tragic too. There is something for everyone in this one.

Are you a fan of this film? Please leave your thoughts below. Never seen it? I highly recommend it.