Very much like Hero (in my opinion), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is another wuxia film that screamed poetry and artistry all over. This film focussed more on the narrative, rather than the action sequences – which is not to say that their action scenes are bad, they are just different.
Like Hero, the fight scenes in this film were very artistic. They were choreographed very well and they seemed like dance moves. Unlike Hollywood action films where they emphasised on quick cuts and non-diegetic sound effects, this film often showed the fight scenes in one frame – wide enough to encapsulate the two people fighting, but also close enough to highlight intricate details such as the carvings of the swords and then panning or tracking; following the actors’ movements. One frame will linger on for about a few seconds and then a cut will be made to the next scene/angle once one actor has fully completed a movement.
One particular scene that I like is of Shu Lien and Jen interacting at the guesthouse. This scene took place after the robbery of the Green Destiny sword had happened and Shu Lien was investigating to find out the identity of the burglar.
What I like most about this portion of the film was the lack of dialogue during the first few frames, where Shu Lien was making her suspicions. The film managed to convey the message across to the viewers (successfully to me, at least) without actually exponentially describing Shu Lien’s suspicions. Shu Lien didn’t say, “I suspect you.” or there was no internal monologue that Shu Lien says in her head, neither was there any narrator actually telling the viewers that Shu Lien had suspected Jen. It was all told silently and easily by a few lingering moments by the camera, and a cut to Shu Lien’s face which showed her changing glance – from the brush, to Jen herself – this, in my opinion, is a wonderful scene expressed visually.
Perhaps the reason Jen decided to dabble into burglary and more importantly, sword fighting, was because that she didn’t have control of her own life. Her marriage was arranged by her parents and she couldn’t choose to love who she wanted to. Perhaps this lack of freedom made her rebellious and wild.
Shu Lien then said, “As a woman, I still must abide by tradition.” Interestingly, the film had thus far portrayed the two main women as capable, resilient and courageous. They were unlike the woman that was portrayed in Ju Dou. Having said that, by making Shu Lien say the above mentioned line also showed that traditions and culture are very much a staple in China. No matter who you are; strong or weak, rich or poor, traditions cannot be broken. Maybe that’s the reason Shu Lien was reluctant to acknowledge that there was indeed something between her and Li Mu Bai.