Hua Mulan review

Hua Mulan review

‘Hua Mulan’ (the chinese live action epic, not the Disney song-and-dance affair) tells the gut-wrenching story of the Chinese girl-warrior, Mulan, who becomes an army general and fights to defend her father. A traditional, raw, and utterly, eye-searingly beautiful movie…

Amazon: Mulan [DVD] [2009]

Ancient cultures have fascinated me over the past few years, particularly those of China and Japan – and when I watched Hua Mulan (2009), the live action Chinese film, I went beyond fascination and fell in love. What was surprising to me at first was that the tale of Mulan is not new, nor was the decision to turn the tale into the film. In fact there are versions of the tale told through film that date back to the 1920s, and the story itself dates back to China’s Northern Wei Dynasty (386-584) and is a ballad.

The original text no longer exists, but everyone knows the story: China is in danger and in order to save her ailing father, Mulan takes his place in the army so that he can live out the rest of his life in peace.

The 2009 live action version (Starring Zhao Wei) is a great contrast to the 1998 Disney film. Where the Disney one,is full of songs and dancing and very little violence, the live action version is overflowing with battle scenes, emotions, dirt, and the horrors of war, which is overall more realistic.

The film begins with the Rourin Tribe, a people who are fighting against Wei China to win its lands so that they no longer have to live in exile. The Rourin Princess dreams of being Queen and uniting the two sides in order to bring peace, but her violent brother objects and wishes to overtake their opponents by sheer force, ruling over his people and theirs through tyranny. The majority of the tale is told through the perspective of Hua Mulan, a young woman who becomes a general, beside her friend Wentai.

The film was slow moving but so fraught with emotion and a kind of rawness that I couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen. The ending might surprise you, and I highly recommend this film, even if the viewer is a person like me and has very little patience for slow moving films. The film possesses an air of skilled storytelling, though it requires an attentive viewer. Inasmuch as there are ever ‘true’ versions of history, history often being said to be rewritten by the victor, the movie is exactingly correct in a historical context, which impressed me as many dramatic representations of historical happenings are very rarely historical at all. Aside from this, the music in the film is beautiful and enhances the story with traditional sounds.

It’s a shockingly beautiful tale, considering the violent time period, but even though the movie is gory and depressing, it retains an aura of poetic beauty that cannot be overlooked.