Directed by Tsui Hark
CUEAFS celebrated the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Snake with the classic 1993 film by acclaimed Hong Kong auteur Tsui Hark, ‘Green Snake’.
Starring Maggie Cheung, the film beautifully represents the everlasting clash between good and evil, love and suffering. Based on a famous Chinese tale, Tsui Hark’s variation creates a colorful fantasy, a visual spectacle that deals with the themes of humanity and is a manifestation of the sacrifices in the name of love. Relying on practical effects and on its sumptuous aesthetic values, the film takes the perspective of the playful Green Snake who alongside her sister, the White Snake, is in a desperate pursuit to escape the demonic world and to become a human being. The personification of the two snakes, the emphasis on the years spent in observing the human world in order to experience emotion in their pursuit to become part of the human world, lies behind the film’s ideological perspective – is the demonic world that much different to the idealised mortal world?
The complexity of the mythological story comes when the White Snake (Joey Wong) falls in love and gets married to a man. However, their search for happiness and the snakes’ quest to become human are paved with challenges along the way. Marked as being ‘evil’, the two sisters have to face their enemies, amongst which is Fa- Hoi, a Buddhist monk. As her character develops, the troubles of the human world make the younger and more inexperienced Green Snake question the joys of human life, and she is soon consumed by the basic and primordial qualities of human nature: carnality and jealousy. The birth of White Snake’s child serves as a catalyst for transformation into human life – symbolically represented by a tear falling on the Green Snake’s cheek. This unreal life they were trying to build was doomed to catastrophe from the beginning but in their blind desire for love, family and humanity the film offers its central message; the two snakes were more ‘human’ than the humans themselves.
‘The Green Snake’ was a real delight for CUEAFS members, but there was also a personal side to the film, as in October 2012 they had the pleasure of visiting key locations in Hangzhou in the Zhejiang province of China, closely connected with the film such as the Broken Bridge, the West Lake and Leifeng Pagoda. Those spaces are associated with the folk tale of the White and the Green Snake and have been an inspiration for various literature and film interpretations over the years.
Review by Eva Spirova