The Assassin (2015) - Hsiao-hsien Hou
Regardless of how many of films I've already seen by Hsiao-hsien Hou, his direction always seems to astonish me, as I can't think of a director who uses silence and stillness to such great effect. The Assassin may sound like a departure for the proclaimed filmmaker, being a Martial Arts film set during the Tang Dynasty-period in Chinese history which finds Yinniang, a deadly assassin, return to her family after being away for several years, essentially being forced to choose between those she once loved and her master's wishes of assassinating the man she once loved. Featuring a tepid pacing that is sure to frustrate most mainstream viewers, Hsiao-hsien Hou's The Assassin is a idiosyncratic vision of the martial arts genre that juxtaposes the quiet, stillness of carefully crafted human drama with kinetic action sequences that are full of thrills when they do present themselves. The film itself is absolutely stunning, and even for those who can't get past the tepid pacing, it's impossible to deny the stunning production design and visual compositions that bring this story of the Yang dynasty to life. The film is so beautiful it could be used as a persuasive tourism video for the Chinese countryside, and while i'd argue the film's storyline is unnecessarily convoluted, it hardly matters, as Hou's juxtaposition of the calmness of nature with the violence of man is simply put one of the film's best attributes, which perfectly expresses his thematic intentions. For me, The Assassin, at its core, is a film about the importance for empathy and compassion, with Hou using this ghost like character of Yinniang to capture the true strength that lies in forgiveness and mercy instead of violence/revenge. Hou's camera throughout The Assassin feels almost like a ghost itself, using a healthy dose of obstructed compositions, almost as if the camera itself is lurking in the shadows at times, much like our main protagonist. Hou also makes some interesting choices in the fight sequences throughout The Assassin, not being afraid to use wide shots that let the action breath, while also using lots of close-ups and static compositions that capture the swift and deadly nature of our main protagonist. Hsiao-hsien Hou's The Assassin almost feels more like a dream than a narrative, being a absolutely stunning piece of filmmaking where no single scene stands out, and I mean that as a compliment, as Hou has created a singular, astonishing vision.
Leave a Reply.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.