Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

Raise the Red Lantern (1991)

Directed by Yimou Zhang

Raise the Red Lantern is Zhang’s forth feature film. It is set in China 1920, where China still has its own distinctive culture and rules. The film explores the dark side of the traditional Chinese culture and how surprising it is to discover what considered being right and wrong in the period of time.

Male dominant is common in China nowadays. But it is nothing comparing to what it is in hundreds years ago. If you are a rich man in that time, you can have many wives, big house and lots of servants. Each night you’ve got to choose which wife you’re going to sleep with. You can treat them however you want, even kill and torture them. Of course there’re rules in the house. But those rules are set to benefit you. When it comes to you doing bad things, everyone will pretend that nothing is happened. Would you prefer a life like that? For me, no, it would be boring.

At the beginning of the film, the new mistress talks to her mother and decide to get marry with someone she doesn’t love. This portrays the concept of marriage in that time to be more like a duty and responsibility than love. The film also shows that love is forbidden in that time. For example, the third mistress is executed because she has an affair with the doctor in the house, because of she has a love.

The use of the foot massage in the film has a lot of meaning. It is like an award for the chosen mistress. It is an addiction once you experience it. The sound of the hitting massaging stick echoes to the other room and makes other mistresses jealous. This is genius, totally genius.

The mood and tone in the film are very well done. I felt very depressing watching this film. I first watch it when I was a child. I remembered hated this film so much. And that hate shows how great the film is, to be able to give that feeling to someone. The film uses a lot of long take in slow pacing but never boring. Its storyline and tension through out the film dive the audience forward without losing patience. Every action and shot has its meaning. For example, the last shot where the forth mistress gone mad and walks outside of the room. The camera goes from closer to wider shots. We will then see she walk in circle with the red lanterns surrounding. She is trapped. It is a very strong ending and I still feel depress every time I watch it.


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