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Raise the Red Lantern

Title: Raise the Red Lantern
Original title:
Directed by: Zhang Yimou
Written by:
Zhen Ni, Su Tong
Year: 1991

Even though this film has been recommended to me a long time ago, I only watched by accident, as it were. One of the courses I take at Wenzao Ursuline College of Language is called Media Chinese (I don’t know the English name, to be honest), and it’s all about movies, music, advertisement and so forth. So, during a couple of Tuesday mornings we watched Raise the Red Lantern by Zhang Yimou. The film had English subtitles, but  we still stopped frequently to discuss language, culture and other details. This helped me greatly in understanding the film, but also made the overall impression a bit scattered.

Raise the Red Lantern is set in the Warlord era, i.e. sometime in the 1920s. The story is about Songlian, a young girl who comes to the Chen household after her father has died and left the family bankrupt. Songlian enters the household as an innocent teenager, but the harsh rivalry and social game played between Chen’s three original wives (Songlian is the fourth) soon transforms her into a completely different person.The focus of the movie is the intricate drama acted out in the household, including everybody except Chen himself, who plays an anonymous, symbolic role.

I don’t think I would have appreciated this film so much if it weren’t for the the fact that our teacher could explain a lot of culturally significant details in the setting, acting, etcetera. This is dram as its best, and even though that is not my favourite genre, it’s hard not to like this film. Apart from the drama, the film is also quite beautifully made, the colour red being the most important visual aspect. There is a chance I might like this movie even more if I watch it again, but for now four snails will have to do.

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