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J?ng K? cì qín wáng (The Emperor and the Assassin)

Title: 荊柯刺秦王
English title: The Emperor and the Assassin
Directed by:
Chen Kaige
Written by:
Chen Kaige, Wang Peigong
Year: 1999

The Emperor and the Assassin takes place a couple of hundred years BC, in what in Chinese history is called the Warring States Period, which ended with the Qin dynasty being inaugurated, unifying China. The film is focused on the king of Qin and his endeavour to unity all peoples under heaven (I do not know how much of the story is historically correct, except for the basic setting). Through war and terror, he strives to achieve his goal, but as dark secrets are revealed, the woman closest to him begins to plot his downfall to end the madness.

This film is brilliant in many ways, and I will briefly touch on three things here. Firstly, the acting is absolutely marvellous. This extends not only to the main roles (especially Lady Zhao), but also to many of the supporting roles. The acting feels genuine and unique in a way I have seldom come across. Secondly, the movie is visually a pleasure to watch, with beautiful scenery, expertly captured down to the smallest details. Thirdly, the story is entertaining because, at least to my mind, it is not obvious how it will develop. Also, the director and script writers do leave a lot to the watcher, meaning that I will probably like The Emperor and the Assassin even more if I watch it a second time.

Perhaps the film is a bit too long (almost three hours), but I also feel that the three hours are necessary to develop the story and the characters. The language spoken is Mandarin Chinese, which is part of the reason why I chose to watch The Emperor and the Assassin, but with good subtitling there should be no problems. I recommend this movie to everyone who is interested in a unique and entertaining vision of the lives of a few individuals in a chaotic episode of China’s history.

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