Directed by Yimou Zhang
Based on the novel by Ni Zhen and adapted by Su Tong
Starring: Li Gong, Jingwu Ma, Saifei He
With her father dead, 19 year-old Songlian (Gong) has been forced to marry. Now she’s the fourth wife of Chen Zuoqian (Ma), a powerful Lord of a wealthy family. Each night he has his servants light red lanterns at the home of the wife he will spend the night with. Having their lanterns lit can bring unknown power and influence to the wives. This honor becomes the subject of an escalating rivalry which soon gives way to something much more than competition.
This is a wonderful film, with a powerful story that is as rich and colorful as the cinematography used to create it. Yimou Zhang (Hero) does a wonderful job with the deep emotion of the story. He also works wonders with the setting, making the most of a beautiful location. The movie features great performances by a core group of talented actors. Li Gong (Memoirs of a Geisha), Jingwu Ma (Red Cliff), and Saifei He (Lust, Caution) all pulled off their parts nicely.
The visual aspects of this film are intense and gorgeous. Every scene feels like the details were all chosen perfectly. The setting and the use of colors within makes this worth watching over and over again. Thankfully, Zhang and his team also remained unobtrusive throughout the film. The camera work is simple and straightforward, the editing follows in suit.
Sound in this movie is also wonderfully done. Like the colors, each sound seems to have a purpose. The sound also brings a level of emotion to the film that it needs. The characters are portrayed with a silent reserve, and the sound is used so selectively that it seems to burst from the scenes.
The characters are so incredibly unique, yet they all manage to fit the cultural mold set by the story. The actors do a wonderful job bringing out the nuances of the script. Each of the character’s motives are revealed in wonderful ways. Overall, the actors do a wonderful job.
This is an incredible film that everyone should see. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Langauge Film. The visuals are successful throughout the film, and benefit from great acting and sound. If you’re a fan of foreign films; this is one you must see. This is also a great choice for anyone who loves drama, intrigue, and a little bit of mystery. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.