WOMAN KNIGHT OF MIRROR LAKE - Story of Qiu Jin
THE WOMAN KNIGHT OF MIRROR LAKE (biographical drama)
Cast: Crystal Huang Yi, Anthony Wong, Patricia Ha, Suet Lam, Kevin Cheng, Dennis To and Rose Chan
Director: Herman Yau
Screenplay by Erica Li
Time: 110. mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)
PREAMBLE: 2011 is the centenary of the overthrow of Imperial Rule in China and this is the second film made to commemorate it - after Jackie Chan's 1911. The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake is the biography of Qiu Jin, the first woman revolutionist in Chinese history. She is not as famous as Sun Yat Sen but Qiu Jin also appeared in Jackie Chan's movie.
1911 is not doing so well at the Malaysian box-office and I do not expect this one to do that well too.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Born into a well-to-do family in the late 19th Century, Qiu Jin refuses to have her feet bound according to custom. Also, unlike girls of her era, she excels at calligraphy, poetry as well as in martial arts, archery and horse-riding. When Qiu Jin (Crystal Huang Yi) learns about what is happening to her country, which is being ravaged by foreigners, she is determined to change the lives of the people, especially women.
After a quarrel, with her husband Ting-jun (Kevin Cheng), Qiu Jin leaves for Japan where she enrols in a college, joins social activists and meets Xu Xi Lin (Dennis To), the would-be leader of the revolution in China. When Qiu Jin returns to Beijing, she continues her revolutionary work as headmistress of the Da Tong Military School.
HITS & MISSES: The movie's inherent weakness lies in its format. It opens with the capture of Qiu Jin in 1907 - at the hands of Provincial Governor Gui Fu (Lam Suet) and a sympathetic official Li Zhong-yue (Anthony Wong). When she refuses to divulge the names of compatriots, she is tortured and later sentenced to death. This takes away much of the suspense that the biodrama affords, as the rest of the story is told in flashbacks, going back and forth from her past to the events of her imprisonment.
Understandably, director Herman Yau and scripter Erica Li are sympathetic in their portrayal of the martyr Qiu Jin, showing her as a feminist and heroine and downplaying the fact that she abandons her children to flee to Japan. Also, it is not easy to root for Huang Yi's protagonist as she is too aloof and seemingly infallible. Kevin Cheng is admirable as her long-suffering husband while Rose Chan (another Herman Yau regular) plays the mute Fu-Sheng whom Qiu Jin rescues from 'slavery' earlier.
Again, the best performance comes from Anthony Wong who not only helps to uphold Qiu Jin's reputation as a poet and educationist but also has to confront his conscience with his sense of duty. And as with 1911, those who expect lost of martial arts action will be disappointed.
THE LOWDOWN: A fairly good biodrama, especially for history buffs.