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Representation Chinese National Identity Through Film Cultural Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1201 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Most of the Chinese movies constitute culture and history as their main theme. The Blooming cinema industry from 1980’s represents the folk culture. ‘When Ruis describes the story of Mao Zedong, the story of modern china’ (Ruis friends 1980:7). He is right in two senses. Mao’s life span (1893-1976) encompassed over throw of Chinese republic and introduction of government system called Marxism. In 1916 china was a country of warlords with capitalist economy. Along the way the red army preached revolution redistributed land and demonstrated communism ideals.

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Then Deng’s rule recovered Chinese economy. They developed in agriculture and other sectors. Consumerism was also a base development in Chinese economy. Educations, communications like television, radio were helpful as a major source of development in Chinese economy. Followed by the Qing dynasty leading a new way to republic china and transition to communist country. In the recent history china is undergoing dynamics of society and transnational influence. By the end of First World War, local industrialists had clearly realized the value of cinema as profit making venture. After the victory of communist revolution policy- makers realized in china, added the value of cinema as a form of mass communication. Cinema continued used to cater to specialized audiences drawn mainly from elite segments of society, this also expands political education in audiences.

Social realism films subscribed the idea of political education and to widen the audiences for cinema these genres were coming up. Economy liberated during Deng period which had an open door policy. In this period film began to grow with the Cultural Revolution and increasing exposure to good western cinema. The martial art films grow out of deep roots in Chinese culture, while making diverse connection with voices of cultural modernity. In 1990’s poverty, increasing crime was the sense of marginalization to be reflected in Chinese cinemas. Later Chinese cinema entered new and exciting in its development after globalization. The ordinary Chinese people became the focus of narrative entertainment, more traditionally associated with rich and powerful.

During this period fifth generation of film makers changed the situation significantly. Ideals of cultural identity, distinctiveness of Chinese film aesthetics began to gain greater attention. These generation film makers were innovative and interested in moving away from traditional ways of film making in relating Chinese cinema to modernism. Cinema has become a cultural practise. To understand the fifth generation film makers one has to pay attention to cultural politics of china. They have given new path to Chinese films and used the tool of cinema to reach the audiences with new awareness related to men, women, identity and politics. The films they gave had themes set in exotic past and oppressive social conditions with aesthetics portrayal of Chinese landscape that attracted global audience and fuelled demands for films.

The Cinematographer Zhang yimou who later emerged as an outstanding film director always presents Chinese landscape, relationship between people and nature in deeply reminiscent of Chinese classical paintings. Zhang yimou films are full of symbolic and interplay between humans and nature, past and present, culture and politics. ‘House of flying daggers’ was directed by Zhang yimou in 2004. The film back ground had Confucian values and story line of troubled political past. The film also depicts the nostalgia process and customs. The film was shot in Chinese landscape and mountains to bring in the aesthetic and super natured colour for pleasing visuals. The film had cultural symbols of china, chipping away an imaginary national identity. Most part of the film was shot in bamboo forest in south east china. The film is polished by computer stimulated space and landscape. The fifth generation directors like Zhang Yimou were innovative and concentrated more on subjects of aesthetics rather than the political implications and ‘House of flying daggers’ had a popular cultural form martial arts made me to choose this film to answer my research question.

‘House of flying daggers’ is a film set in Tang dynasty, which had enormous rebel groups in which flying daggers were the largest rebel group who steals from rich people and help the poor with local support. Since their group leader was assassinated, new leader formed to fight with the government to help the locals. In the second half of the movie, the sequence I would like to analyse is the bamboo tree fight. The fight sequence was shot in south east china, in a bamboo forest with an extra ordinary martial art that attracted the audiences globally. The camera works portrays the aesthetics of nature. The fight was captured with two, low key and natural lighting. Ang lee ‘Crouching tiger and hidden dragons’ was the previous martial art movie re-creates mythic world that gave recognition of new Chinese films globally. The movie had the shadows of historical, cultural, political and lingual backgrounds. House of flying daggers is a sequel of movies that has the commercial genres of new visuals and profit oriented approach.

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Martial arts are popular cultural form, which plays an important role in the process of cultural modernization and re-shaping structures of aesthetics, economic, political power and social conditions. The fight sequence has formation of men in group with sword and the facial expression conveys the meaning of power and dominance. Costumes also play an important role that represents the Chinese culture and identity.

In these movies there has been always an exaggerated version of Chinese style ethnography, which has a symbol of Zither, chess, long and short sword, marching soldiers. The director reacting to sterile characterized by escapism, romanticism but with little visual innovation which chips away an imaginary national identity. The computer generated landscape and slow motion shots are drawn from the western film making styles. The dialogues and romance were interconnected even with the fight sequence as a character of escapism. Music also plays a key role in representation Chinese traditions. In the sequence which I analysed had the past Chinese folk culture music addressing their tradition.

The fifth generation director Zhang yimou had innovatively depicted the Chinese aesthetics in ‘House of flying daggers’ with their cultural norms and identity. The movie depicts the past political implication in new modernism. The flying daggers have led to many productions of martial art films followed, which is a major culture identity in Chinese cinemas. The martial art films have attracted the global audience which emerged different genres in Chinese movies. The collaboration of Chinese norms with the western film making technology confuses the Chinese cultural identity. Thus the movies are serving for the purpose of commodity and therein by representing the culture in a state of unstable.


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