The 1993 movie directed by Kaige Chen, Farewell My Concubine, addresses the Chinese political issues during the war against Japan via interpersonal issues of an opera troupe of young male actors. The movie is as long as it is engaging. With two orphan boys who are raised to act in an Opera for their entire lives, dedication obtains a whole new meaning. Dieyi's training to act as a woman and to reflect femininity in his whole life increases the dissension that is observed within the film as well as its connections to the politics of China. The use of ghastly sound effects, close-up cinematographic techniques, and military involvement combine together in this movie to create a devastatingly dramatic experience.
At the beginning of Farewell My Concubine, two male actors walk towards the camera filming them and into a dark arena. They are welcomed by a faceless voice in the shadows and are given a stage light to perform. Once the stage light appears, the scene changes into a sepia-toned showcase of Douzi’s childhood and his introduction to the young opera troupe of Beijing. Douzi, a young male with a prostitute for a mother has quite an unfortunate upbringing. This is not revealed until his mother goes to see the master of the opera troupe to get her son enrolled.
While Douzi’s mother visits the troupe, the punishments that the kids go through by the hands of their masters are exhibited callously. The kids are beaten with the sides of swords and made to perform physically strenuous tasks. The main master Guan says that, they are not human beings, if they do not perform in the opera and that cliques are forbidden in the troupe. When the mother finally gets to speak with Master Guan, he informs her that her son will not be reputable for his troupe due to his extra finger. Even after she pleads with Master Guan that the brothel ‘House of Blossoms’ will not be able to house Douzi, Master Guan declines her pleas and says, “Prostitutes and actors are equally despised by society.” In retrospect, one may liken Guan to Mao Zedong. Although Mao may have agreed with this statement, he would not have accepted either occupation, and this is evident later in the movie. With such words in times of poverty and war, Douzi’s mother has to find a way out and is desperate enough to chop Douzi’s extra finger off after she blindfolds him.
Initially, Douzi does not react normally to his hand injury, but later releases his emotions. Before his finger is chopped, subliminal cues are used to imply what will happen. For example: A knife sharpener calls for people to bring him their knives right before the prostitute takes her son with her to the troupe master. Sound effects are also a part of these subliminal cues and the audience is informed of a possible outcome with the loud wind and screeching sound that occurs before the prostitutes meeting with the master.
Even though the young boys have to endure physical and emotional pain as members of the...