Reviewed by: Andy Heisler
|Featuring:||Yun-Fat Chow, Gong Li, Liu Ye, Chen Jin, Jay Chou|
|Producer:||Bill Kong, Zhang Weiping, Zhang Zhenyan|
|Distributor:||Sony Pictures Classics|
“Unspeakable secrets are hidden within the Forbidden City.”
Ornate doors open to a reveal a mysterious city in which love, betrayal and ambition reside. “Curse of the Golden Flower” depicts the tragic political and private pursuits of the Imperial family in 10th Century China, whose lives are as complex and epic as the palace in which they live. The events of this film’s dramatic narrative threaten to destroy a family, and change a nation forever.
From the opening scene, viewers are immersed in rich Chinese life and tradition during the Tang Dynasty. It is within this visually stunning context that the story unfolds, each hour bringing the family one step closer to tragedy and bloodshed. “Curse…” is led by acclaimed Chinese actors Gong Li and Chow-Yun Fat. Along with their supporting cast, they skillfully present a story of heartbreak and intrigue. The Emperor (Yun Fat), a skillful swordsman and heavy-handed ruler, seeks to maintain power over his family and nation. His rule is threatened by the plans of the Empress (Li), and their three sons, each of whom are motivated by their own passions and rage.
While rated “R” for violence, one shouldn’t expect the volume of martial-arts sequences as depicted in other popular Chinese films such as “Hero” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. The rating is not derived from the frequency of violence, but rather its brutality and graphic detail. The most notable incident involves a father viciously beating his son to death with a metal belt. There are several other battle scenes that portray excessively bloody killings as well. “Curse…” does not include profane language, however, objectionable content during conversations involve references to incest and past infidelity. Cleavage is common throughout, and two scenes glimpse a couple while in a passionate embrace, although there is no nudity.
While watching this film, I was often reminded of Jesus’ words, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). The moral failures depicted in this 10th Century setting are as old as the scriptures of the Bible, and are still manifested every day in our modern context, as people make choices based upon selfish feelings and desires. As in this movie, our own sinful errors are destined to bring grief and tragedy to our lives and to those around us. The Bible offers numerous examples of similar failures.
In the book of Genesis, we read the story of an important Patriarch in Israel’s history. This man’s name was Isaac, and he lived with his wife Rebekah and their two sons, Jacob and Esau. As this family’s story unfolds, deeds motivated favoritism and a hunger for power have tragic results. Likewise, “Curse…” rightly portrays the havoc that ensues when people are motivated by personal gain, vengeance, and lust.
God does not desire for families to function according to these sinful motives and experience their tragic outcome. Therefore, the Bible not only warns us of such behavior, but also offers hope and healing from the curse of sin. 1 Peter 2:24 tells us, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” Through faith in Jesus, we are given the opportunity to find healing, and extend grace to others. “Curse of the Golden Flower” gives an accurate portrayal of the pain, while excluding a message of healing and redemption.
Visually, Director Zhang Yimou does not disappoint—with breathtaking cinematography and a few intense action sequences. True to his prior works, Zhang captures incredible images utilizing brilliant color, and provides a captivating storyline. Unfortunately, these positive features are overshadowed by the unresolved moral failure of the characters involved. While “Curse of the Golden Flower” is impressive in many regards, most viewers will prefer a film that offers more hope and less graphic violence.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.