La Cité Interdite

Curse of the Golden Flower

Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia

Zhang Yimou :: China :: 2006 :: 1h54

An epic Shakespearean drama unfolds when characters with nerves of steel and the agility of phantoms clash in tragic blood-stained events cloaked by a stunning, tranquil beauty. A spectacular experience of old school theatre in a modern aesthetic.

Set in the Tang dynasty, 928 AD, the Emperor returns from battle to the forbidden city, as a Macbeth avant la lettre. Plunging himself fearlessly into his strained relationships with just about all the members of his court, he assumes full responsibility for the role he is entrusted to. A role draped in the understanding that all movement is but strategy in the chess game of the imperial power struggle, a game at which he is a ruthless master.

The Emperor’s unabridged display of the worst power has to offer is contrasted with the frustration, loyalty and anger harbored by his wife and sons. The characters are all so theatrically surreal with their emotions amplified to a large-than-life scale that it should have crippled them out of any action other than desperation. But they manage, and are convincing enough to carry you along with their descent out of the honorable. They are surrounded by the impressive but cartoon-style choreography of Chinese battle scenes we have become used to, of expert anti-gravity elf-like soldiers caught up in the cinema matrix.

A captivating and engrossing depiction of life in the forbidden city as it lives in the imagination of generations passed. Along the sidelines of the tale, you will be offered a palette of colors which are breathtaking, coloring the extravagant palace, dressing the characters and demarcating the fairy-tale scenery. Many reasons, as far as I’m concerned, to pass the threshold into the realm of the Forbidden City.

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