Wednesday, December 21, 2005

THE PROMISE: A Flawed Parable about Fate

(fantasy adventure)
Time: 103 mins
Rating: * * *
Cecilia Cheung and Hiroyuki Sanada in The Promise
IF Beauty killed the Beast in King Kong, it seems to have made a muddle of the tale in Chen Kaige’s The Promise. In his pursuit of beauty — of style, timelessness and interpretation — Chen has ‘sacrificed’ traditional story-telling and has infuriated some of his fans who had raved about his epic, Farewell, My Concubine (1993). Some viewers have even questioned (on the Internet) why this movie even got a Golden Globe nomination.

But in The Promise, Chen is not trying to tell a story. It is a parable about Fate and Human Destiny and it is told in a fantasy format set (in Chen’s words) “3,000 years in the future, somewhere in Asia”. The opening sequence sets the theme and tone of the movie: A starving village girl ‘steals’ a piece of dumpling and tries to take it for her ailing mother. A Sorceress appears and offers to fulfil her secret desire: She will become a beautiful princess and have all men falling for her. The catch is that she will never have true love or real happiness.

Would she accept? She does! — and the following sequences show how she has a King, a General, a vindictive Duke and a young slave falling in love with her, all with tragic results.
To the King, Qincheng (Cecilia Cheung) is just a possession — to be betrayed and exchanged for political advantage.
To General Guanming (Hiroyuki Sanada), whom she believes has rescued her from the king, Qincheng is his prize and may even change his destiny.
To the slave Kunlun (Jang Dong- Kun), who had donned the General’s armour in that rescue attempt and even tries to sacrifice his life for her, she is his elusive love. Kunlun may run faster than the wind, but not fast enough to win her love. And to Wuhuan (Nicholas Tse), the Duke of the North, she embodies fleeting love and revenge — for breaking a promise.

All through her encounters with these men, Fate plays a role, as do elements like greed, ambition, loyalty and the search for true love. However, Chen’s preoccupation with sweeping cinematic style and beauty has blurred these lines and obscured his message. Viewers will be distracted by the sets, the breath-taking scenery and comic book-style action — and miss out on the parable.

Also, the cast do not help. Tse is unintentionally comical in some scenes, having fun with his Mandarin accent, while Cheung is nothing more than just eye-candy. Sanada and Korean star Jang fare better in their two-dimensional roles.

And as Chen has lamented, Fate too played a hand in this movie. “The film you ‘plan’ to make is not the one which you shoot. The film will unfold as it will,” he said. For his next ‘epic’, he should promise to take better control of his work.


At 7:27 am, Blogger coffee81 said...

I've watched it and my verdict is 3/10.

The concept is there which is good. And so is the costumes. Camera angling been exceptionally taken care off well enough.

But, the effect is kind of...need more improvement on that area.

Tse's played the role well which makes the movie worth watching. Thank god...( phew )...Tse's acting saves the 42-million-dollar blockbuster.

At 5:39 pm, Blogger Alexander Bak said...



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