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Film Analysis: The Last Emperor (1987) - Essay Example

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Movies such as “Crouching tiger, hidden dragon”, “The Hero” and other similar films have shown Chinese art and culture in limelight…
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Film Analysis: The Last Emperor (1987)
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The Last Emperor – An Analysis In the past few decades, there has been a constant rise in the quantity of East Asian cultural content that is presented in Western films. Movies such as “Crouching tiger, hidden dragon”, “The Hero” and other similar films have shown Chinese art and culture in limelight. They have taken the artistic and cultural prowess of the East Asian people to magnificent heights. The process of promoting art and culture of China and other eastern countries were started in the early 1980’s itself. “The Last Emperor”, is considered to be a milestone movie for the promotion of East Asian art and culture.
The movie “The Last Emperor”, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci is about the life of Pu Yi, Ching dynasty’s final emperor. The film is about a leader who fails to understand his people and rules in a realm of fantasy, finally succumbing to his omnipotence. The film was hugely successful. Apart from the storyline, which is based on the life history of the protagonist, the film paints an unmatchable visual experience of art and culture prevalent in East Asia. The initial half of the film provides great insight into The Forbidden City, China’s most historic and prestigious landmark. Every scene in the film dwells in explaining the artistic value of the city through stunning visualization. These visualizations laid the entry into the foray for Chinese art and culture.
The Westerners and the rest of the world got to know about the spiritual culture of the Chinese and realized how art is considered to be a treasure of this civilization. The film had some unique scenes of the Imperial Palace, shown first time for viewing for the rest of the world. Some of the exotic locations present in China and Manchuria were showcased magnificently. The eyes were treated with at most entertainment, irrespective of the storyline and screenplay. The costumes and artilleries used by thousands of warriors shown in the film, provides an authentic reference to the cultural customs followed in that era. The curiosity of viewers to explore more of China’s art and culture was clearly evident through the film’s success.
Every fact about the East Asian art or Chinese history presented during the times mentioned in the film is true to the corresponding actual history. For example, the reason behind the city being called ‘forbidden’ is because the emperor lived there and since he was considered to be the son of God, he was prevented from being seen by the public. This was clearly stated in the film in the beginning when Pu Yi is crowned as the emperor at the age of 3 and gets protected from public view.
On a downfall side, the film also portrays the unethical culture of the Chinese, empowering and at the same time, stripping powers from a 3 year child. The film clearly shows the inhumane nature of the Chinese through this portrayal. It clearly depicts the fact that kingdom and following rules were given the highest priority rather than individualistic rights. Before the child could realize his loss or gain, innumerable events occur in his life indicating the unstable nature of Chinese governance during that era.
Overall the film has done its best to recreate the lasting memory of the historic Forbidden City. The director has done extremely well to restore the divine stature once associated with the city. He has instilled life into a present lifeless society. Be it the bicycle ride by the tutor in streets of China or the awesomely designed wedding chamber or the playing court or even the eunuchs, everything has been a metaphor to the city’s beauty, visually. With the above analysis, it can be stated that perceptions of history shown in celluloid does resonate with the printed materials of facts about Asian art or Chinese history.
The Last Emperor, DVD. Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. 1987, Los Angeles: HemDale Film, 1999 Read More
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