Chinese Films: Goddess, Two Sisters, Farewell My Concubine

Free EssaysMovie ReviewChinese Films: Goddess, Two Sisters, Farewell My Concubine
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The movies under analysis touch three cultural epochs of life of the Chinese society. The Goddess describes the period of the Republic of China, the Two Sisters movie refers to the time of socialistic tendencies in China, and the Farewell My Concubine is the movie of Post-Mao era in China. All movies depict the major development of Chinese cultural life and its tendencies within the society. The paper analyses the specifics of films belonging to different eras of Chinese history, focusing on the similarities and the differences between their plots, and on the specifics of music and light usage the during shooting. An analysis of three movies reveals the influence of various historical periods on the life of society, on human relationships, and on the development and importance of cultural life for people.

The movie Goddess directed by Wu Yonggang was filmed in 1934, presenting the whole epoch of China during the period of the Republic. This film depicts a difficult life of a Chinese woman that has no other choice in her life but to become a prostitute. However, she remains a human, the same kindhearted woman that is ready to do anything to protect her son and help him lead a normal life. The film depicts the specifics of social life of the republican China. The criminals feel power and freedom, and the society is prejudiced against people who have a difficult fate. The main character of the movie, a woman who works as a prostitute, can not find a better job in order to feed her son and herself. She is forced to sell her body to be able to dress her child, simultaneously saving money to send him to school and make sure that life will be at least a little easier for him that it is for her.

The Republican China is shown as a police country. The government monitors the prostitution cases and makes raids to prevent people from performing criminal and prohibited activities. The film is silent and the viewers do not have an opportunity to evaluate the thoughtful dialogues or even monologues of this film. However, the camera focus is very distinct and the level of the actors’ performance creates a vivid image of characters speaking without any sounds being heard. However, the movie is not soundless as the musical accompaniment follows the actions happening, creating an additional layer of tension by changing from a calm and rhythmic pace to rough and intense music sounds.

In general, the film is rather unfocused, but the director uses the lighting and the rapid changes of scenes in order to put the necessary accents, drawing the viewers’ attention to the most important parts of the movie. Moreover, the costumes render the social status of every character in the story and add significantly to the general image of the movie. The movie has a symbolic title as it is metaphoric, yet at the same time it depicts the fates of thousands of women of the epoch that were forced to lead their lives working the streets. The Goddess means the common name for prostitutes of those times while also having a wider meaning, implying the strong woman that wants to protect her child despite the unpleasant life circumstances. The police in the movie are presented as a separate cluster of people and have the features of the government of that time period. People were forced to lead their life in the streets, worried about the possibility of being caught and imprisoned at any time.

The movie Stage Sisters (aka Two Actresses) directed by Xie Jin in 1964 presents another epoch in the history of Chinese culture. The movie acquired a colored version. Compared to the Goddess, it is very focused on physical appearance of the characters, especially on the faces of the main protagonists. The scenes include a series of shots that cover only a small territory, making the viewer feel closer to the movie. The plot shows the difficult life of people in China during the period of Socialistic Movement, interlacing the lives of the main characters with the history and the artistic side of life. The position of artists during that time was extremely difficult, as by choosing one profession, people were unable to choose another one, which forced them to be subjected to the negative attitude of the government and the changing opinion of the society. However, this movie is also about the human feelings and the relationship of two women that managed to finally reunite after long and difficult years full of unpleasant consequences for both of them. The opera theatre is depicted as one of the most influential places in Chinese society.

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The Socialist Movement started to spread all over the country due to the professional presentation of new and progressive ideas from the stage. It is notable that during that time, the troupes had to include only men or only women, as both of them could not take part in the performance on one stage at the same time. That is why even the male parts were performed by female actresses. The movie shows the difficult and constantly changing life of performers that could be praised one day and become imprisoned the next one. The movie also stresses the value of the most important human traits, such as pride, dignity, and honesty. Besides, one of the most important lessons in the film is acquiring a feeling of responsibility, making people accept the consequences of their actions. The film uses music to enhance the emotions of the viewers at the most important and crucial parts of the story. Also, the actors’ performance is at the very high level as they convey the emotions not only through their high pitched voices, but also with their eyes, movements, and gestures. The lighting in this movie is very focused and bright, drawing attention to the most important parts. Moreover, the pacing of the film is rather fast as the moments change very often, and the general impression of the movie is that it is highly dynamic and interesting. The socialist tendencies developed during that time with the same fast pace, and the movie has managed to depict the flow of events through the plot development.

The movie Farewell My Concubine directed by Chen Kaige in 1993 depicts the later period of Chinese culture. It describes the life of a society during Post-Mao period in Chinese history. In this movie, contrary to the Two Sisters, the troupe of the theatre consists of men predominantly, and the female parts are also performed by male actors. The main characters of the story are two ordinary boys who have a long story of relationship — relationship that lasted almost fifty years of their life. This is a story of a passionate friendship and love that experiences an intrusion of a woman. The Chinese opera theatre has to come through a number of stages of Chinese history.

This film touches the moments of Japanese invasion of China and the Cultural Revolution. The director managed to convey the necessity of the existence of the opera theatre for the Chinese culture and for both people and actors. However, the nihilistic politics of Mao government lead to the period of almost ten years of destruction, causing significant changes of the traditions of the opera theatre in the country. The plot development is very dynamic, which creates an impression of changing events in the country during that time. The main characters have a rather difficult relationship as they can not be loyal to each other, because their lives are endangered. However, despite all the events, they manage to unite their talents in one last performance.

Compared to the Goddess and the Two Sisters, Farewell My Concubine is highly dramatic and combines the development of Chinese history during a longer period of time. The representation of the history in this film is more vivid than in the other two movies, where the dubious actions of the government were only hinted at in certain moments. This movie shows the other side vividly and places itself closer to the real events in China of Mao period. The strongest accent of Farewell My Concubine was made on the Cultural Revolution and its influence on the society. The importance of the theatre is clearer in this film than in the Two Sisters, as the whole story is centered around this page of Chinese history. It is evident because of the specific camera work during the on-stage moments in the movie. The attention of the viewers is concentrated on the actors’ faces and especially on their eyes, as they can express their true emotions. The words they speak can be different from what they really think and feel, but in the final moment they want to show the world that they remain true to their inner ideals and beliefs, as Douzi does.

The three analyzed movies depict three various episodes of Chinese culture and history. Each film focuses on the specific moments and tendencies that were characteristic of the life of society and of people in general. The Goddess is a silent movie, but despite this fact, it perfectly renders the difficulties of life during the period of the Republic of China. The other two movies, the Stage Sister and the Farewell My Concubine, depict the stories of human life through the concepts of culture and of the theatrical life of people. The society experienced significant changes during all three stages of the country’s development. However, people managed to remain devoted to the traditions, theatre, culture, and personal relationships — and to survive that difficult time of changes within their country, which is now depicted in the masterpieces of Chinese cinematography.

The movies under analysis touch three cultural epochs of life of the Chinese society. The Goddess describes the period of the Republic of China, the Two Sisters movie refers to the time of socialistic tendencies in China, and the Farewell My Concubine is the movie of Post-Mao era in China. All movies depict the major development of Chinese cultural life and its tendencies within the society. The paper analyses the specifics of films belonging to different eras of Chinese history, focusing on the similarities and the differences between their plots, and on the specifics of music and light usage the during shooting. An analysis of three movies reveals the influence of various historical periods on the life of society, on human relationships, and on the development and importance of cultural life for people.

The movie Goddess directed by Wu Yonggang was filmed in 1934, presenting the whole epoch of China during the period of the Republic. This film depicts a difficult life of a Chinese woman that has no other choice in her life but to become a prostitute. However, she remains a human, the same kindhearted woman that is ready to do anything to protect her son and help him lead a normal life. The film depicts the specifics of social life of the republican China. The criminals feel power and freedom, and the society is prejudiced against people who have a difficult fate. The main character of the movie, a woman who works as a prostitute, can not find a better job in order to feed her son and herself. She is forced to sell her body to be able to dress her child, simultaneously saving money to send him to school and make sure that life will be at least a little easier for him that it is for her.

The Republican China is shown as a police country. The government monitors the prostitution cases and makes raids to prevent people from performing criminal and prohibited activities. The film is silent and the viewers do not have an opportunity to evaluate the thoughtful dialogues or even monologues of this film. However, the camera focus is very distinct and the level of the actors’ performance creates a vivid image of characters speaking without any sounds being heard. However, the movie is not soundless as the musical accompaniment follows the actions happening, creating an additional layer of tension by changing from a calm and rhythmic pace to rough and intense music sounds.

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In general, the film is rather unfocused, but the director uses the lighting and the rapid changes of scenes in order to put the necessary accents, drawing the viewers’ attention to the most important parts of the movie. Moreover, the costumes render the social status of every character in the story and add significantly to the general image of the movie. The movie has a symbolic title as it is metaphoric, yet at the same time it depicts the fates of thousands of women of the epoch that were forced to lead their lives working the streets. The Goddess means the common name for prostitutes of those times while also having a wider meaning, implying the strong woman that wants to protect her child despite the unpleasant life circumstances. The police in the movie are presented as a separate cluster of people and have the features of the government of that time period. People were forced to lead their life in the streets, worried about the possibility of being caught and imprisoned at any time.

The movie Stage Sisters (aka Two Actresses) directed by Xie Jin in 1964 presents another epoch in the history of Chinese culture. The movie acquired a colored version. Compared to the Goddess, it is very focused on physical appearance of the characters, especially on the faces of the main protagonists. The scenes include a series of shots that cover only a small territory, making the viewer feel closer to the movie. The plot shows the difficult life of people in China during the period of Socialistic Movement, interlacing the lives of the main characters with the history and the artistic side of life. The position of artists during that time was extremely difficult, as by choosing one profession, people were unable to choose another one, which forced them to be subjected to the negative attitude of the government and the changing opinion of the society. However, this movie is also about the human feelings and the relationship of two women that managed to finally reunite after long and difficult years full of unpleasant consequences for both of them. The opera theatre is depicted as one of the most influential places in Chinese society.

The Socialist Movement started to spread all over the country due to the professional presentation of new and progressive ideas from the stage. It is notable that during that time, the troupes had to include only men or only women, as both of them could not take part in the performance on one stage at the same time. That is why even the male parts were performed by female actresses. The movie shows the difficult and constantly changing life of performers that could be praised one day and become imprisoned the next one. The movie also stresses the value of the most important human traits, such as pride, dignity, and honesty. Besides, one of the most important lessons in the film is acquiring a feeling of responsibility, making people accept the consequences of their actions. The film uses music to enhance the emotions of the viewers at the most important and crucial parts of the story. Also, the actors’ performance is at the very high level as they convey the emotions not only through their high pitched voices, but also with their eyes, movements, and gestures. The lighting in this movie is very focused and bright, drawing attention to the most important parts. Moreover, the pacing of the film is rather fast as the moments change very often, and the general impression of the movie is that it is highly dynamic and interesting. The socialist tendencies developed during that time with the same fast pace, and the movie has managed to depict the flow of events through the plot development.

The movie Farewell My Concubine directed by Chen Kaige in 1993 depicts the later period of Chinese culture. It describes the life of a society during Post-Mao period in Chinese history. In this movie, contrary to the Two Sisters, the troupe of the theatre consists of men predominantly, and the female parts are also performed by male actors. The main characters of the story are two ordinary boys who have a long story of relationship — relationship that lasted almost fifty years of their life. This is a story of a passionate friendship and love that experiences an intrusion of a woman. The Chinese opera theatre has to come through a number of stages of Chinese history.

This film touches the moments of Japanese invasion of China and the Cultural Revolution. The director managed to convey the necessity of the existence of the opera theatre for the Chinese culture and for both people and actors. However, the nihilistic politics of Mao government lead to the period of almost ten years of destruction, causing significant changes of the traditions of the opera theatre in the country. The plot development is very dynamic, which creates an impression of changing events in the country during that time. The main characters have a rather difficult relationship as they can not be loyal to each other, because their lives are endangered. However, despite all the events, they manage to unite their talents in one last performance.

Compared to the Goddess and the Two Sisters, Farewell My Concubine is highly dramatic and combines the development of Chinese history during a longer period of time. The representation of the history in this film is more vivid than in the other two movies, where the dubious actions of the government were only hinted at in certain moments. This movie shows the other side vividly and places itself closer to the real events in China of Mao period. The strongest accent of Farewell My Concubine was made on the Cultural Revolution and its influence on the society. The importance of the theatre is clearer in this film than in the Two Sisters, as the whole story is centered around this page of Chinese history. It is evident because of the specific camera work during the on-stage moments in the movie. The attention of the viewers is concentrated on the actors’ faces and especially on their eyes, as they can express their true emotions. The words they speak can be different from what they really think and feel, but in the final moment they want to show the world that they remain true to their inner ideals and beliefs, as Douzi does.

The three analyzed movies depict three various episodes of Chinese culture and history. Each film focuses on the specific moments and tendencies that were characteristic of the life of society and of people in general. The Goddess is a silent movie, but despite this fact, it perfectly renders the difficulties of life during the period of the Republic of China. The other two movies, the Stage Sister and the Farewell My Concubine, depict the stories of human life through the concepts of culture and of the theatrical life of people. The society experienced significant changes during all three stages of the country’s development. However, people managed to remain devoted to the traditions, theatre, culture, and personal relationships — and to survive that difficult time of changes within their country, which is now depicted in the masterpieces of Chinese cinematography.

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