A moving tale of a pseudo romance

by Nickie Wang

If we are to qualify the big screen intimacy between two generals leading an army to the battlefield, most likely someone would say that it’s one perfect example of bromance. But the portmanteau of brother and romance, which was coined in 1997, does not really apply to their relationship amid obvious and unusual closeness between them. The truth is, the other he, is actually a she.

You might probably have an idea whom I’m referring to. It’s the tale of Hua Mulan, a legendary heroine from Chinese folklore, who transformed herself from an obedient daughter into a fierce highest-ranking general in Northern Wei Dynasty.

Inspired by the two animated versions of Mulan, Hong Kong-based director Jingle Ma came up with an astonishing version of the famous Disney film. Now the new version features live action and real people. The costumes are elaborate and the fighting scenes are dramatically gripping.

One day, the Emperor’s soldiers deliver a conscription notice to the villager. In every family, one man must enlist himself to serve the army. Mulan, played by Zhao Wei (Shaolin Soccer, So Close, Red Cliff), decides to take the place of her father because the old man has fallen ill. Without her father’s knowledge, she leaves their town to join other young men in their mission to defeat the nomadic tribe called Rouran, which attempts to steal their land.

While in the training camp, Mulan struggles to conceal her identity. Revealing her real gender means death sentence, since it is also illegal for a woman to appear in male garb. And then she meets Wentai, another general who happens to be the Emperor’s son. After earning his respect, their romance blossoms as they win every battle.

With a seemingly perfect love story, the plausibility of the tale of Mulan is still in question. Folklores are generally derived from stories that have been told from person to person that’s why alterations are inevitable. But the main premise of Mulan is still highly unlikely to happen in any scenario. How in a world can thousands of men fail to realize that Mulan is indeed a woman given her obvious physical attributes?

The film centers on how Mulan wins every battle and musters extreme nationalism by sacrificing her life for the love of her country. In between, the movie also illustrates how she is changed by the circumstances from being just an ordinary girl into a coldblooded general that kills every member of the Rouran tribe that stands her way.

It’s interesting to note that Mulan’s journey as a hero lasts for 12 years and for that long period none of her soldiers discovers her real identity. Only two of the characters know that she is a woman—her childhood friend named Tiger who is also enlisted in the army and Wentai who saved her for being executed when she admitted of stealing a pendant from one of the soldiers to avoid a strip search (even when she gets back home and faces the Emperor, nobody gets astonished when she asks for forgiveness for lying to the entire army).

The love story of Mulan and Wentai only serves as backdrop of Mulan’s film version. They have a fascinating love story however it is awfully executed. Indeed, like what the characters say in the movie, “It’s difficult to fall in love while in the middle of a war.” In the film’s case, the director had a hard time giving Mulan and Wentai’s love story a better treatment.

5th Spring Film Festival

The live action Mulan is one of the four movies to be exhibited in the upcoming Chinese Spring Film Festival that runs from Jan. 27 to Feb. 1 at the Shang Cineplex.

Presented by the Ateneo de Manila University Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies and the Confucius Institute, together with the Ateneo Celadon, the Chinese Spring Film Festival features riveting and critically-acclaimed productions including Queen of Cooking, The Grand River, and Forever Enthralled.

The comedy Queen of Cooking tackles the unique techniques and styles of preparing Chinese cuisine, and follows a woman as she makes her journey through a three-year apprenticeship and works towards winning the prestigious Master of the Kitchen competition.

Forever Enthralled, on the other hand, is a lavish biopic that chronicles the rise to fame of Mei Lanfang, a legendary innovator in the world of Beijing opera. The story also features Mei’s famous rivalry with performer Swallow 13 and his tragic relationship with onstage partner Meng Xiaodang who hoped for a real-life romance with the married actor.

Meanwhile, The Grand River is set during the early years of Communist China where idealistic young men struggled to develop the country’s northwest areas, particularly the Tarim River that needed technology to conserve water and present disaster. Here is a film that showcases the government’s efforts to help the native people of Xinjiang to develop their territory and honor their traditions.

The festival is organized every year to promote Chinese language and culture in mainstream Philippine society. For information and screening schedule, contact 633-7851 loc.113 or log on to http://www.shangrila-plaza.com.

Roman comedy at the Dulaang UP

Dulaang UP, the official performing group for theater of the University of the Philippines, is set to stage its fourth production under its 35th theater season.

The cast that will give life to the fascinating tale of the mythological character Amphitryon includes Neil Sese, Lex Marcos, Diana Malahay, Wenah Nagales, George de Jesus, Paolo O’Hara, Lucky de Mesa and Natasha Cabrera.

Amphitryon is a Roman comedy that revolves around the subject of love, infidelity and deception. It tells the tale of Alcmene, a loving and faithful wife whose husband, King Amphitryon, goes to battle. Falling in love with Alcmene, the god Jupiter disguises himself as her long-lost husband. After a night of exceptional happiness transpires between the supposed “husband” and wife, King Amphitryon of Thebes returns victorious from battle, and Jupiter suddenly disappears. Alcmene soon gives birth to twins, Heracles, son of Jupiter, and Iphikles, son of Amphitryon.

The play is originally by Heinrich von Kleist, and is translated in Filipino by Jerry Respeto. The production will run from Feb. 16 to March 6 at the Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Theater, 2nd floor Palma Hall, UP Diliman. For tickets and other information contact Dulaang UP Office at 926-1349, 981-8500 local 2449.

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