In the spirit of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, we’ve got another Chinese Love Story told with Martial Arts.
We’ve got the ‘Flying Daggers’ – a rebel group back in 859AD in China, who rob from the rich and give to the poor. The local deputies are trying to take down the Flying Daggers. When they learn about a local girl in a Brothel possibly being a member, they send in one of their own to gain her trust.
After a battle and an arrest of this blind girl Mei (Zhang Ziyi), the undercover policemen Wind stages a break out and the two hit the road as he attempts to take Mei to the Flying Daggers, a deceptive plan to reveal their whereabouts.
Things go wrong as the General sends men to take out Mei and Wind, despite him being one of their own men. This starts off the story as both Wind and Mei travel and avoid being killed, up until they make it back to the Flying Daggers, and things grow even more complicated.
Wind – not just a character but a storytelling tool.
Wind is the name of the character who rescues Mei. During the movie Wind explains that he is as free as the wind, and the wind can never stop blowing. This quote is referred to a few times to describe his character and the ideal of being free from control.
As the movie progresses, Mei decides she wants to be as free as the wind. During the final battle her actions are dictated by this phrase, as the wind in the scene gets stronger and stronger, as a sort of symbolic story telling tool.
In much the same fashion this movie uses a lot of symbolism and colour to really help define certain points of the story. The changing scenery during the final battle really demonstrates the fierceness of their rivalry over Mei even as the world around them changes.
Even more, it seems the closer to the House of Flying Daggers they get to (or less if further away from) the more bright green the scenery, even the members of the Flying Daggers are all dressed in bright green. Just like Jet Li’s Hero, a powerful use of colors really helps to separate certain elements of the story.
Another Martial Arts Love Story
It seems these were all the rage during this period, with House of Flying Daggers, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and certain elements of Jet Li’s Hero revolving around love (and Zhang Ziyi!), By the time I watched this movie I was a bit over it, but can respect the art form.
I personally think the similarities in acting style, shooting style, story telling and martial arts choreography really just made these movies almost ‘formula’ in the fashion they seems to get pumped out consistently. While these movies are looked upon as some of the greats of martial arts cinema, I honestly believe that that view is made more from a storytelling perspective and has less to do with the combative element of martial arts choreography itself.
So, in my opinion (you may disagree and that’s fine!) this movie is a great movie. It includes some traditional chinese opera style martial arts, but isn’t really what I’d consider one of the greats in terms of Martial Arts films. However, the fighting was pretty well done.
The Action and Martial Arts
This movie seem to jump from traditional wire fu to grounded fighting a bit on and off throughout. While some scenes have guys leaping form Bamboo tree to Bamboo Tree in a very Wire Fu fashion, the fights I really enjoyed were the ones that were grounded in a bit more realism.
When Wind breaks into the prison to free Mei, the small flash of choreography in that scene I think was pulled off very well.
The final battle was defintiely my favorite mix of artistic storytelling and fighting. The fight choreography was much more realistic and exciting as it was emotionally driven (without the crazy supernatural wire fu). I was glad that it was the surroundings that were used more artistically around the actual battle.
Ultimately my opinion of the action is that it is stillmore ‘art’ than martial art, but still entertaining to watch!
Would I recommend it?
If you’re into this genre of movie, go for it! It’s a good story, with decent action but not for really an ‘action movie’. As I said before, more ‘Art’ than ‘Martial Art’ – which is cool if that’s what you’re after!