'Vengeance' has a new take on historic events
HONG Kong director Daniel Lee has caused somewhat of a stir as his new film "White Vengeance" provides a different perspective on the Banquet of Hongmen, considered a key turning point in Chinese history.
The film starring Leon Lai, Feng Shaofeng, Zhang Hanyu and Anthony Wong is set during the fall of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), when sworn brothers Xiang Yu and Liu Bang both had ambitions of becoming the emperor.
It tells the story of how they turned against each other, and how Liu escapes a banquet where Xiang plots to assassinate him.
While Liu and Xiang's battle of courage, patience and wits plays out, the film also delves into the fight between their counselors and warriors.
Lee, known for his martial arts films "Black Mask" and "14 Blades" does well at depicting the characters' delicate and complicated emotional changes through aggressive action-packed confrontations.
During the Banquet at Hongmen, the two famous counselors Fan Zeng and Zhang Liang play the game of go (weiqi) on behalf of their soldiers. The philosophy of I Ching, or the Book of Changes, is mentioned in this scene, indicating that the dominant and the subdominant can be reversed suddenly; sometimes all one needs is to wait for the enemy to make a big mistake.
In the film, Xiang quickly loses the support of the people due to his arrogance, whereas Liu's forces grow in strength after he abolishes some draconian laws and decrees.
In a climactic battle, Liu's army besieges Xiang's army in Gaixia.
The film depicts the banquet as a cruel turning point in Liu's life as he starts to take a new path of manipulating people and gradually loses the ability to trust others, even his good friends. Many of Liu's warlords are killed after the suspicious emperor founds the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220).
It took Lee more than three years to prepare and make "White Vengeance." He considers this story about loyalty, betrayal and lust for power his best and most satisfying as it was not a simple rehash of historic events.
He has said he wants to portray the unknown sacrifices people make in their pursuit of power.
Of course, the Banquet at Hongmen has inspired film and television adaptations in the past. Lu Chuan directed "The Last Supper" and Gao Xixi made the TV drama "Legend of Chu and Han" based on the events that occurred so long ago.
"White Vengeance" is expected to meet strong competition from "The Flowers of War" and "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate."