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House of Flying Daggers—General statements

Opening comment

This is the first of our main set of films, so some orienting comments are needed.

Comments here are meant to focus our viewing.


Deception is going to play a role of these of our main films: House of Flying Daggers (Beijing), 2046 (Hong Kong), Three Times (Taiwan), 3-Iron (Seoul). (And, of course, it was an element in Chunhyang as well, though somewhat minor.) The only film where it is not an important element is Dolls (Tokyo).

Therefore, for Flying Daggers, one of the questions I would like you to keep in mind throughout all the sessions devoted to it is the functional and dysfunctional roles of deception in a romantic relationship.We won't pursue this much yet, just observe it please. But later we will return to this film to ask whether deception in romance is being represented in ways similar to Western films and whether you can discern any differences between its deployment in our films from Beijin, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Seoul (and whether that is the function of the director himself, or might somehow be cultural).

In addition, deception is linked to the concept of "layers". This is another reason to begin observing it.

This film has deception between characters, but also has deception of the audience by the director, although not in a romantic way.

Individual vs. society (or, the status of Confucian values)

The second topic I would like you to keep in mind for the full film is the conflict in values between loyalty (zhung) to the state / government, and faithfulness (xin) to one's lover, and the modern component of wishing to pursue one's own path of happiness. Are traditional values fairly portrayed? Are they honored or criticized? This is a film set in Tang dynasty China. Can you suggest changes that would make it really Tang dynasty (in terms of the romantic story line)?

Note & request

This film has a complicated story line. We cannot have an intelligent discussion unless you have a very good sense of the story line. Please read the scene summaries to clarify things in your mind if they aren't entirely clear.

Random comment

Romance (represented, in large part by beautiful women and men's desire for them) as a force that destroys men's lives is a running theme in nearly all of our movies except segments of Three Times and 3-Iron. This suggests something ...

Director: ZHANG Yimou (Chinese, Beijing)
Year released: 2004
Running time: 1:56
Setting: Tang China (9th c.)
IMDB: House of Flying Daggers

Jin / Wind: friend of Leo, loves Xiao Mei, loves women in general

Leo: principled friend of Jin, loves Xiao Mei

Xiao Mei: woman who is loved by Leo and Jin