Posted Sep 24 2018

LFF 2018 Preview - Shadow

Dir: Zhang Yimou

Starring Deng Chau, Sun Li

House Of Flying Umbrellas anyone? The palette of Zhang Yimou’s latest accurately reflects it title, bringing us a rain-soaked feudal Chinese landscape, to the point where its monochrome design leads you to think it was almost shot in black and white.  Until the blood starts to flow.

Before that however, this tale of duality and duplicity is rather a turgid affair. In ancient Chinese folklore a “shadow” was a figure hired by a nobleman to take his place in public, even dying to protect their master. Such creatures are found in the neighbouring kingdoms of Pei and Jing, who for years have maintained a tenuous peace, something that is thrown into disarray by the actions of the Commander, a man who seems eager to go to war (or possibly just to go home and see his mother again.) This first section of Yimou’s film moves from feeling laboured to even mildly confusing at times, as motivations are deliberately shielded and characters left one-dimensional.

However, a Trogan horse attack – complete with the movie’s totem Yin-Yang symbol - soon ups the stakes dramatically as the director unleashes a series of brilliantly staged – and beautifully shot – action sequences, all set in the unrelenting and unforgiving downpour of the rain, the best of which (appropriately) involve some seriously cool killer-umbrella action.

Shadow becomes a violent piece of cinematic beauty, and even though it builds to more kingly deaths than a Shakespearian tragedy, it’s hard not to be captivated by its strongest moments.

Shadow plays the LFF on 19 & 20 October

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