Original Title: Wo hu cang long
Running Time: 119 min.
Directed: Ang Lee
Screenplay: Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus, Kuo Jung Tsai. (Novel by Du Lu Wang)
Music: Tan Dun
Cinematography: Peter Pau
Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Sihung Lung, Pei-pei Cheng, Fazeng Li, Xian Gao, Yan Hai, Deming Wang
Produced by: Co-production Taiwan-China-Hong Kong-USA; Sony Pictures Classics
2000: 4 Academy Awards: Best foreign language film. 10 Nominations
2000: 2 Golden Globes: Best director for foreign language film. 3 nominations
2000: 4 BAFTA Awards, including David Lean for best direction. 14 nominations.
2000: National Board of Review: Best foreign language film
2000: New York Film Critics Circle: Best Cinematography
2000: 2 awards Toronto International Film Festival: Best director (Ang Lee), Best picture.
In two hours, this film presents the core of the mysterious Chinese culture. It is not another martial arts movie. We can say that it is a myth because it contains archetypal symbols.
Let us start with the title. The tiger and the dragon are important and profoundly meaningful Chinese symbols. The dragon, a sort of winged snake vomiting fire, is the most sacred solar symbol with a beneficial power. It represents the spirit. The dragon also represents the occult knowledge and the wisdom that is the real power. The tiger is the opposite. It symbolizes the matter power, the chthonic. It is a lunar symbol and is someone who can see in the darkness.
Both express the fundamental symbol in China, the Ying Yang. The circle divided in two parts, one black another white containing the opposite of each other. Through this conflict, the eternal circle of creation continues. The masculine and feminine principle, the birth of destruction, war and peace.
Ancient Chinese thought that such a conflict exists in every human being. Every one must balance these two elements through his/her own inner struggle. The Chinese also use martial arts to achieve this effort. Western people only understand the external form of these martial arts (with some exceptions).
Chinese believe that, “if someone killed thousands of enemies but did not conquer himself, the struggle is worthless”. This can be seen in the movie. The effort to perfect the inner self is not related to the apparently perfect body movements. We observe that evil can utilize this technique but fails to reach the essence. It is, the path to reach the essence always goes through Virtue. This path is not easy. Whoever follows this path leaves behind “the small pleasures” of the “small man”. It is a path of solitude. Heroic but difficult. The two main characters followed this path for several years. Now, they can have a teacher and carry a sword. The sword is always a symbol of a spiritual element.
At the beginning of the movie, the main character is tired of his searching. He thinks that by surrendering the sword he will find peace. But the problems begin later. This decision brings a chain. We cannot deny our own Dharma, it is, we cannot leave the path once started although it was dedicated to his master (same as Mumbai). Otherwise, a high price has to be paid.
This film has several teachings. At a certain point someone said, ‘The things that we touch don’t last, nothing can be kept in this world. Only when we renounce them, we understand the true reality.” This is the teaching of detachment, a fundamental teaching in the oriental philosophy and religion. What we perceive through our senses is an illusion and we suffer because what we believe is true and everlasting is just temporary.
Everything is born to die later. The disciple needs a teacher to search for what is beyond material forms.
In Oriental philosophy the virtues in the disciple’s path are: a) dedication to the teacher and the search, b) Research (internal and external truth), and, c) Service (the offering with actions) Also, it is important to understand that the soul is genderless, a good or bad warrior can be a male or a female. What counts is the soul.
Keep in mind the words at the end of the movie: “A loyal heart makes wishes come true”. So, to stick to the end is what makes a hero-warrior. Remember that the longest road starts under our feet, as long as we are willing to walk.
This desire is hidden in the heart as it was in the heart of the little protagonist who refused to accept her fate planned by others. She wanted a more intensive life than that of her own personality. She wanted to live the magic of her search. Her new power made her behave selfishly. She did it only once. This way the balance is broken and the Myth needs something drastic to continue. She will end on evil’s side or she will offer herself in sacrifice. She chose sacrifice so… she got wings.