Analysis Of "Raise The Red Lantern"

1542 words - 6 pages

Yi-Mou Zhang's Raise the Red Lantern, is a beautiful and brilliantly made film in its own right. If, however, the team of Orson Welles and Greg Toland had produced the same film it would take on an entirely different look and feel. The film would reflect Wells love for creating physical representations of thematic metaphors and the long take and Toland's brilliant use of deep space photography and mobile framing. Under the direction of the Wells-Toland team, the film would take on subtle, yet significant differences from the very beginning. In the opening scene, with Songolian and her stepmother, the focus of the camera would still be a medium close up of Songolian; but, the previously unseen mother would now be seen in the extreme background and edges of the frame. Using deep focus and choreographing her movements the mother's character would still remain faceless, but would seem more tangible and the feeling of distance between the mother and her stepdaughter could be re- enforced. The next major difference would be seen in the sequences involving Songolian's entrance into the house itself. In Zhang's original version, Songolian enters the frame with the inscription on the back wall shown briefly. The W-T revision would begin the entrance sequence with a medium close up of the inscription itself, slowly panning from left to right, just slowly enough to recognize the characters but fast enough to not allow the audience to actually read the inscription. The significance of the inscription on the wall has been explained as being not in the inscription, but in the characters themselves: in the oldest Chinese societies the written characters were created with arbitrary meaning assigned to them, only scholars and the aristocracy had the time and means to learn the meanings of the thousands of different characters used. The characters on the wall are alluding to a society which was dominated by male figures who arbitrarily created meaning and tradition. Zhang filmed the movement through the house in a series of shots usually cutting from the entrance into a archway or gate, to the exit on the other side from the same. This style creates a feeling of disorientation and the layout of the house is never really established for the audience. The W-T duo would probably have filmed the various movements through the ground levels of the house in a series of long-takes with tracking shots. The shots, starting from approximately rooftop level, would then track forward and down to follow the movement of a character through the complex, rising up and 'crawling' over arches and entrance ways and then dropping down again. Instead of placing an emphasis on the feeling of the palace's physical 'discontinuity' created by Zhang's shots, this change would emphasize the magnitude of the structure itself, reenforcing the feeling of a well established and developed tradition and the insignificance of one small woman. The other type of...

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