In 2018 Zhang Yimou seems to be returning to his best performance through the beautiful Wuxia film titled Shadow. Wuxia (martial heroes) is a genre of Chinese film that focuses on the adventure stories of martial arts experts in ancient China. With complex stories and visuals that are so artistic, Shadow has received critical acclaim and is proof of Zhang Yimou’s directing abilities.
One of the most striking things when you first see the scene in this film is the use of monochrome colors. Black and white visuals and various levels of gray instantly attract the attention and curiosity of the audience. Not only black and white, there are two other colors in this film, namely human skin color and blood red color. The monochrome color selection seems to be very contrasting compared to Zhang Yimou’s previous work because usually he often uses bright, flashy or vivid colors. Inspired by Chinese black and white calligraphy, Zhang Yimou’s decision to use monochrome colors proved effective in building the atmosphere of the story in this film. The color of the monochrome also supports the Chinese philosophy ‘Yin and Yang’ which forms the basis of the story in this film. Best Movie Site
Shadow (2018) with the original title “Yang” tells the story of Pei’s royal effort in the capture of the city of Jing which was captured by the Nan kingdom. This power struggle created various polemics that built up drama and tension in this film. Shadow itself actually took material that is already familiar, based on the classical history of China ‘Three Kingdoms’. The story offered is actually quite complex especially for viewers who are not accustomed to watching Wuxia films. The story focuses on the protagonist named Jing who serves as the shadow commander of Ziyu and is trapped in a major political scheme while facing a crisis of identity as a Shadow. As a Shadow, Jing served as a puppet that appeared in public using the identity of the commander Ziyu. In an effort to deceive his competitors, the existence of Jing became crucial for commander Ziyu and even succeeded in creating a tension that was so extraordinary.
The portrayal of female characters or feminism in this film is also very realistic considering that during the ancient Chinese empire the existence of women was only as a complement or could be regarded as a ‘political tool’. Female characters such as Xiao Ai, wife of commander Ziyu and Qing Ping, sister of king Yang Ping, do not have the strength and must be forced to follow destiny and sacrifice themselves to fulfill the ambitions of the men around him. Movie Review
The topic of feminism and masculinity is actually a part of the philosophy of ‘Yin and Yang’ that is raised in this film. The concept of dualism which is visibly a contrast is actually perfecting each other, connecting and supporting one another. This is so felt when you see the dynamics between the character Jing and commander Ziyu. Both are a unity that depends on each other but on the other hand both are conflicting and threatening each other. Even at the end of the film the two experience an exchange of positions that completes the cycle of Yin and Yang. If you look at this film in more depth, there are no characters that are truly good or evil. This is directly connected to the philosophy of Yin and Yang, there is no good or wrong because each side has the potential to change to the other side. The main thing that is sought is a harmony and balance from both parties.
The artistic division and cinematographer in this film should also be appreciated for successfully realizing the director’s black and white world vision. The scenes in this film were taken precisely and arranged artistically to produce extraordinary visuals in each frame. Equipped with such beautiful choreography, it’s no wonder there are so many iconic and unforgettable moments in this film. One of them is a battle scene that uses an umbrella as the main weapon. The use of umbrellas as weapons seems to be an iconic identity that will continue to be raised when the film is discussed. The extraordinary dynamics between each production division even produced one of the most iconic scenes where the troops invaded the city of Jing while spinning and gliding on two iron umbrellas that were held together to form a ball.
Performance actor from Chinese actor Deng Chao is arguably very riveting because he managed to portray two characters who were so contrasting. Both characters were delivered very well even there were some moments where the audience seemed to be unaware or forgot that both characters were played by the same actor. Beautiful actress Li Sun also managed to portray the dilemma of Xiao Ai’s character who began to fall in love with Jing. From Li Sun’s acting performance, the audience can feel the complexity and difficulties of women who only became a pawn of the era. Top Movie
Every acting of the actors and artists in this film feels right so as to produce a world that is not fictitious but feels real.
Shadow proved to be a turning point for director Zhang Yimou for his failure to direct the film The Great Wall in 2016. Through the film Shadow the audience is not only shown extraordinary visuals but is complete with complex drama that is thick with philosophical depictions of Yin and Yang. With a phenomenal directing the audience is made to feel various emotions and even continue to be fooled through the ambiguity of right and wrong played by Zhang Yimou. It’s no wonder Shadow is one of the influential masterpieces of art that can be enjoyed by both Wuxia film fans and those who aren’t.