Director Ang Lee gives the audience an effective insight to Confucianism, the culture explored in the film where moral codes and following natural order are key values. This film provides an acumen to a culture which embodies different beliefs and values to our own Christian principles. This proves to be extremely effective as it allows the audience to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of Confucianism as well as their own culture by the films metalanguage and film conventions. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is a 2000s Wuxia film about Li Mu Bai, a great warrior who decides to turn in his sword, the Green Destiny to a treasured friend, Sir Te. When the sword is stolen by Jen, a leading female character, it is up to him to retrieve it while also trying to avenge his master’s death who was killed by Jen’s master, the villain Jade Fox. The film explores Jens journey up to the moment where she steals the sword including after as she ventures around China and discovers herself and her beliefs and values. Beliefs and values the leading characters withhold in this film which adhere to and subvert to their cultures are the idea of repressing inner conflicts, talents and passions to disguise a reserved exterior which is especially evident in Jade Fox as she fights the restricts put on women who also want to perform Wudan. Another value exemplified in the film is that social obligations and external constraints can limit an individual’s potential, personal freedom and sense of individuality which is seen in Li Mu Bai along with the belief that faithfulness will lead to a life of happiness and fulfilment which in one way or another is portrayed by all characters in the film.
The audience can appreciate the Confucius value of ‘appearance and reality’ which is believed to be able to repress inner conflicts and hide talents and passions that are perhaps not accepted in their philosophical religion. In Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon women especially value their appearance as their religion, Confucianism suggests that women must study and learn how to manage households, be etiquette and follow relationships within laws to be willing to do anything to help their husband and family. This value is reflected by villain Jade Fox. We learn that Fox does not want to epitomise these characteristics her culture directs her towards therefore she has an affair with Chiang Nan-he (a master in Wudan fighting) in attempt to learn the secrets of this art. This however was not the case, Jade was taken advantage of and was refused to be taught merely due to her gender. Her response to this was killing him, proving her worth and stealing the book outlining the Wudan secrets. Ang Lee demonstrates this value in his scenes through visual elements and dialogue. A significant scene in the film which accurately portrays this value and uses these elements was after Jade Fox had poisoned Li Mu Bai and voiced her opinion regarding his master and their society. She said “Your master underestimated women! I was good enough to sleep with, but not to teach.” During this scene close up camera angles were used to express her emotions and conflicting opinions she withholds about the roles of females. This angle and dialogue effectively encourages the audience to understand Jade’s emotional and damaging experiences with her cultures beliefs therefore appreciate their own as it is why she has to embrace her own value of appearance and reality. As seen, Fox and her hardships plays a substantial function in this film which proves to be a successful way to express to the audience to appreciate the freedom of having their own values in comparison to the forced value of your appearance in a Confucius culture. The value of appearance and reality was effectively illustrated in this film.
The idea that social obligations and external constraints will limit an individual’s potential, personal freedom and sense of individuality is a Confucius belief embodied in the film which Western audiences can acknowledge and appreciate. In the film, it is evident that society and external complications restricts the characters of their own freedom of choice, constantly testing their faith and morals. This is especially portrayed in Li Mu Bai’s character who throughout the film tries to remove himself from a violent lifestyle by hiding behind his religion. However this all changes after Jen steals the sword and he is obliged to retrieve it to ensure it is in safe hands. This drags him back into a vehement lifestyle limiting his personal freedom as it forces him to pursue the life he was hypothetically running from. Ang Lee conveys this value through numerous intense scenes where the high camera angles alongside dramatic music creates a compelling and engaging prospect. An example which actively illustrates how Li Mu Bai has been constricted of his opinions and feelings due to social obligations was in his final moments with Shu Lien. The high camera angles add to the scenes intensity when Li Mu Bai states “I’ve already wasted my whole life. I want to tell you with my last breath that I have always loved you.” The camera angle of this scene and the dramatic music playing in the background aids the audiences response towards the belief illustrated which allows them to appreciate their own beliefs and the freedom they have in their own culture, proving to be effective. The audience has been given the opportunity to appreciate and extend their knowledge on the culture conveyed in the film due to camera angles and melodramatic music which accurately displayed their belief that outside sources can limit personal freedom and sense of individuality. This belief was once again conveyed effectively throughout the movie.
The film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon has accurately portrayed to the audience a significant value explored in their culture that faithfulness will lead to a life of happiness and fulfilment. Throughout the film acts of faithfulness and of high moral code is displayed between characters. In particular, Jen and forbidden love Lo have strong faith in each other and the desire that they will one day be happy together, despite the distance and barrier between them. Confucianism revolves itself around regarding each individuals involvement in a community or towards one another as being the means to fulfilment. A demonstration of faithfulness leading to fulfilment is when Lo says to Jen “a faithful heart makes wishes come true”. Lo’s wish refers to him and Jen being together once again which put in juxtaposition to the Confucius belief, is the bliss after leading a fulfilled existence. Ang demonstrates this faithfulness in these scenes through the use of radiant, incandescent lighting. This constructs an irresistible desire to live a similar lifestyle and effective insight to their culture, portraying this belief accurately in that if fulfilled you will be as happy as these characters. The director has effectively portrayed this Confucius belief of faithfulness leading to fulfilment through lighting choices and love story of Lo and Jen which allows audiences to appreciate different cultural beliefs and values from their own. Audiences are allowed to appreciate faithfulness in the culture explored in the film.
Ang Lee, the director gave the audience an accurate insight to Confucianism and its key morals. The concepts understood by the audience are the beliefs and values of appearance and reality, social obligations restricting personal freedom and faithfulness will result in a life of fulfilment. These were all displayed by many visual elements such as camera angles, dialogue and different sound effects and musical choices that allowed the audience to discover new appreciations for the culture the film embodied along with their own. Overall, cultural beliefs and values were exemplified effectively towards the audience in the film.