by Donavin Sulser
The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake is a film out of Hong Kong that follows the history of early 20th century female revolutionary Qiu Jin played by Huang Yi and her journey of women’s rights and freedom from foreign colonialists. The movie begins with a montage of battle scenes reminiscent of the Hong Kong martial arts high flying wire acts.
From the beginning we see the main heroine Qiu Jin captured by the Chinese government and put on trial for her connections with the revolutionary movement, setting up a series of flash backs on her life, leading Qiu Jin to become a revolutionary.
Director, Herman Yau ,a veteran of Hong Kong cinema, shows the movie in the typical, over the top martial arts action sequences with tables splintered by the crack of a sword and the aerial acrobatics that only rivals Cirque Du Soleil. Thankfully, Yau does not destroy the docudrama by entering the realm fantasy. The audience gets a sense of realism in the event of this biographical film of one of China’s pivotal points in history.
Yau uses the Hengdain World Studios to the fullest extent, with lavish sets and authentic period design placing the viewers in in the middle the China’s revolution. He amazingly recycled sets that have been seen in previous films and lightly decorates them in a way as to not be a cheap copy, giving the film its own identity and fluidity.
Yi’s performance as the historical poet and revolutionary Qui Jin works perfectly for the film as she progress though time. Huang Yi shows Qui Jin as a credible person in search for answers, questioning the status of a woman’s place in society and their role in government. Qui Jin deals with many of the ancient Chinese customs such as foot binding, a deformation of her feet, keeping them petite, which was thought to be more attractive in China.
Qui Jin could be thought of as the Joan of Arc of China with her counter culture ways and what then would be considered madness. Yi’s performance is breathtaking as she performs fight sequences with ferocity and range yet settles to a very tranquil and unassuming woman.
The film does have a few flaws to the western eye but what would be considered normal or common place in Hong Kong cinema. The supporting cast are poorly introduced, without having a fully developed back story; dispersed just as quickly as they came on screen or sporadically appearing for one-liners – desiring more of the supporting actors to get a bigger sense of the revolution. What we get is Qui Jin’s point of view but only at a minimum, China’s political climate is never fully examined.
This movie shows the strong points of Chinese cinema but not giving its best and going beyond the boundaries of its confined thinking. While western viewers will love the action sequences they will be lost with the historical significance if they are not attuned to Chinese history. This film still get 3.5 out of 5 as it is an well done picture but not really giving us anything overly exciting to cause after movie discussion.