China set in the Warring States period is like a sword broken into seven pieces; more specifically into Zhao, Qi, Qin, Yan, Chu, Han, and Wei. Just like swords, they come to blows and ragged blade marks in a battle for supremacy and this goes on for years. The King of Qin, being the most ambitious, wanted to conquer all of China eventually leading him to become its first Emperor. In achieving this, he gave a reward to those who could defeat the three legendary assassins. It took ten years until a county sheriff, Nameless, provided proof of the three assassins’ death; their legendary weapons. As such, he was allowed to sit ten paces away from the King. Nameless told his story to the King, who in return told his point of view of how Nameless managed to get their legendary weapons. Eventually, Nameless was targeted by the King’s subordinates and died after receiving a shower of arrows. This is the story of Nameless; a “Hero”. Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” does not only intrigue its audience with its clever plot but also provokes them to watch it by providing a multitude of symbols within its message and theme. An audience would love this movie not only because of these thought-provoking contents but also by its rich history and cinematography.
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There are varieties of symbols with varying degrees which can be found by a keen audience and further analysis of the movie, “Hero”. First of all, the movie focuses on the importance and positive reception of a 2000-year-old country; China. This country’s name can be translated to “Middle Kingdom”. In addition to this, the word “Middle Kingdom” can be written using a box with a line through the middle. This symbol can be observed in the movie, being flashed at almost the center of everything. Just like what the movie depicts, China in reality or during that time is a really divided into small states. Moreover, these states are in constant battle with each other to gain supremacy or power. Calligraphy, one of China’s well-known art, plays an important role in the movie. It also provides symbolisms in the movie. For instance, the Emperor of Qin in the movie thinks and reflects over a scroll having the sign of “sword”. The sign of “sword” is written in calligraphy and it is in its “twentieth variation”. It symbolizes for liberation and change. The twentieth form comes to existence in order to replace the nineteenth form; just like a new state or ideas replace the old. Moreover, calligraphy as an art showed faith and a sense of loyalty. Arrows rained and wiped out a calligraphy school in the movie. However, the calligraphy masters did not abandon their calligraphy. Some continued making this art and died while doing this. The characters’ actions, sharing, and stories also show different symbolisms, such as in the case of Nameless. His character name literally shows that he does not have a family name and may suggest that he does not actually have a name; as such he is named “Nameless”. During his sharing with the Emperor of Qin, he confirms that he does not have a family name; or a family as to speak. The Emperor understood his position and considered his spiritual needs. These actions or sharing symbolizes or layouts the foundation of culture or society itself; from being a sword to the embraced. The fight scenes of the characters also showed symbolism and some metaphor. Nameless and Broken Sword’s fought each other in their minds. Their thoughts and actions illustrated and reflected their feelings during the fight. In other battles, the character’s outfits provided symbols for the setting, such as blue for the lake and green for the forest.
These claims or symbolisms are also considered and understood by other movie reviewers or critics. Yang Xiong's review tells how the film presented itself in an abstract or symbolic manner (Yingxiong 2002). John Demetry’s review looks into the drama, sophistication and symbolisms in the movie (Demetry 2008). Whether or not the movie is about a hero’s broken sword or about a broken country, audience and reviewers would definitely and appreciate seeing the wholeness of the movie with its story combined with intelligent cinematography; just like I did.
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