Raise the Red Lantern and the Last Emperor: Movie Comparison


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There are some movies about lifestyles in China and then there is “Raise the Red Lantern.” The film parallels “The Last Emperor” in how a master controls his subjects within his domain. Out of all the Chinese movies that I have extensively viewed, this was the only one that actually, and effectively, captures the lush background of life during this time period.

The film entirely takes place on the grounds of a wealthy master whose only chore seems to be deciding which one of his four wives to sleep with on a given night. In viewing the movie, we are forced to feel sympathetic to the fourth mistress. She was the youngest among the other three who arrives at the estate after studying at the university. Cherished memories of her life before arriving there were ultimately destroyed. In one instance, the master burned the fourth mistresss flute that her deceased father gave to her. The film evokes feelings of sorrow and disgust, but it manages to fill in humorous bits that alleviate the tense mood.

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The film revolves around the masters polygamist lifestyle and his utter dominance over his wives. When one mistress was good to him, he would decide to sleep with her that night. At the beginning of the film you get the notion that the forth mistress doesnt want to sleep with the master, but that changes as the film goes on. Sleeping with the master that night meant the lanterns outside your room were lit up and, an added incentive, was being able to get a foot massage that night. The massage seemed to be the most rewarding part of being at the estate. The masters decision of who to sleep with that night evoked jealousy between the “sisters.” This increased the excitement of the movie and led to the main struggle between the fourth mistress and the three other women.

The fourth mistresss anger and lack of control creates hostility in the household. Her behavior creates a downward spiral, which leads to the deaths of two important characters. During this downward spiral of the fourth mistress, the movie goes through rapid change where the household in flipped upside down and emotions are thrown around like the balls in a lotto machine.

The only downside to this wonderful movie was the indeterminate ending. I felt that I was left with many questions about the fate of the fourth mistress and what happened to the others. Overall, I felt the movie was very interesting and beautifully filmed.

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