The Assassin” NYC Movie Premiere

By Tatiana Ho

Tang Dynasty based movie “The Assassin” was shown in a jam-packed screening at the Walter Reade Theater on October 10th. “The Assassin” is a highly credited film, first shown at the Cannes Film Festival, and again at Lincoln Center. The event, sponsored by New York Times along with many others, had a line that traveled almost down the steps thirty minutes before the premiere as people rushed to get their tickets. Before the start of the movie, Director Hsiao-Hsien Hou and actress Fang-yi Sheu were invited on the stage for a quick hello.

The dramatic film portrays the difference between two parties in Weibo, China. Main Character Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi) is sent back to her home town after failing at a task to kill an unruly Governor. She is then faced with reuniting with her family and killing the man she once loved. The character herself is forcefully apathetic, realizing that her job has nothing to do with her heart. Other characters, such as the nun that trained Nie Yinniang to be an assassin, are seen as more of a back drop to Nie Yinniang’s story. The internal struggle of the main character is presented without words but with facial expressions, giving the movie a more artistic feel.

Cast aside, misunderstood, and betrayed, Yinniang is not the protagonist seen in the mainstream world of film. Her decisions present the idea that not even a trained assassin can live without a conscious. Meanwhile, Yinniang’s obedience to the nun makes the audience question what is most important to her. The film shows the irony of her situation, being that she is meant to feel nothing, while simultaneously showing the audience the beauty in the world around her through landscapes. The film concludes with Yinniang’s final decision, defining whether she is living for herself or to follow orders.

After the ending of the film, Director Hsiao-Hsien Hou along with actress Fang-Yi Sheu returned to the stage for a short Q&A. During the session, Director Hou expressed that his main objective for the movie was to be historically accurate. Through this research Hou was able to portray the characters and costumes as realistic as possible. Director Hou also explained that the beginning of the film was filmed in Black and White for a purpose. His main objective was the make the movie like a book, and books have prologues. Thinking of ways to represent this in film, Hou decided on making the first minutes in black and white to give a backstory to the character. Abandoning the digital age of filmmaking, Hou directed the film using film stocks– about 4,400 feet of them to be precise. From this the director scanned the video into dcp format and then manipulated the film through there. While Director Hou’s focus was on the filming, Actress Fang-Yi Sheu provided the audience with backstory prior to the film. Sheu is a professional dancer who performs around the world. She was getting ready for a performance, when she was confronted by Hou. According to Sheu, she was too busy during the time and denied the request to being in the film. Three long months later, Sheu finally agreed to filming. Specializing mostly in choreography, Sheu stated that acting in the film is an accomplishment she takes pride in. She ended her statement saying she was honored to work with Director Hou and that he is a master at his craft.

“The Assassin” premieres on October 16 at IFC Center.
Watch the Trailer here:

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