Release Date: 6 July 2000
Directed by: Ang Lee
Country: China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, U.S.
The movie stars Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh and Zhang ZiYi. The plot centers around a talented female warrior named Jen Yu who is discovered after she steals an accomplished swordsman’s, Li Mu Bai’s legendary Green Destiny sword.
One of the key concepts I’ve identified in was the patriarchal hegemony present. While it is true that Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon has strong and capable female leads such as Shu Lien, Jen Yu and Jade Fox, the most powerful of warriors ultimately is a male (Li Mu Bai) showing that the martial arts field is commonly associated and dominated by men.
Women warriors in the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon seem to also symbolise breaking out/confronting oppression or struggle against injustice. Shu Lien, the female hero, seems to function as the mouthpiece of WuDang. Jade Fox, the villain whose villainy was born out of scorn and resentment for the WuDang (especially Lu Mu Bai’s master who she killed) for not training females. Jen Yu, an extension and reconfiguration of Jade Fox’s character, still struggling with her conscience, fighting to gain freedom, being oppressed due to her gender (required to marry well and fulfill her duties as a wife) and her aristocratic background (arranged marriage), hence hindering from her desired WuDang life. Female warriors in this movie also all appear on screen already skilled and capable, similar to many other WuXia films.
Swords in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon also hold some form of symbolism, in particular Lu Mu Bai’s Green Destiny sword. The sword can be interpreted as a phallus symbol, a symbol of a man and the privileges of being a man in that era, which is that of freedom. Hence, one can regard Jen Yu’s thief of the Green Destiny sword as her deep resistance against the patriarchal system in China.
The movie was really intense and gripping. I really love the choreography of the fight scenes. I’ve also noticed that this film had drums playing in the background during the fight scenes, much like in Hero (2002). The ending of the film also puzzled me. Jen Yu managed to meet up with her lover at the end but she still chose to jump down the mountain. It was as though she was saying that even though she loved him, being with him meant that she had to give up her freedom that she had been struggling to achieve. However, this brings me to the question, what makes us truly free? Are we all not oppressed in some way or another? Perhaps she realise that and felt that death was the only way to liberate her.