Sacrifice (China Film) New York Premiere

By David Yu

In this year’s New York Asian Film Festival, it has indeed shown that the Asia is making the most breathtaking movies in history to compete with their counterparts in the western world. This festival selects only the best, strangest, and most entertaining movies to screen for New York audiences, ranging from mainstream blockbusters and art-house eccentricities to genre and cult classics. Specifically, one such movie, The Sacrifice (趙氏孤兒) directed by Chen Kaige is a further proof that the commercialization of Chinese cinema has gained more attention in the Western world.

This film tells of a common doctor who loses everything as he tries to save the last child born to a noble bloodline. The Zhao family have the king’s ear, much to the dismay of General Tu, who craves power. In a smoothly executed coup, General Tu’s clan wipes out all members of the Zhao family in one bloody massacre, all except for a newborn child just delivered by the gynecologist, Cheng Ying (played by Ge You). Knee deep in blood, General Tu knows that one Zhao infant is still alive and so he seals and searches the city in a tense series of escalating scenes. Cheng Ying brings the infant home and tries to pull a switcheroo with his own child, but it only results in the destruction of his entire family, leaving him with nothing but the Zhao family baby.

This film reveals scenes of sudden reversals and whiplash-inducing plot twists, and becomes a Jacobean revenge tragedy as Cheng Ying becomes an advisor to General Tu, who adopts the Zhao baby as his godchild. Moreover, this story continues to unfold over the decades as these three men develop deep bonds of love with each other, but at least one of them has to die.

There are a fair of bloody massacre and swordplay. Nevertheless, along with the elegant set, costume design and lush cinematography, they take a backseat to the highly charged drama. Needless to say, Director Chen Kaige has made a movie that is a kind of chamber piece dealing in emotions that enable audiences to respond in immense approbation.

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