I absolutely adore this film. There is very little in the way of realism when it comes to the fight scenes, but honestly that is part of the magic of the film for me. And then there are the haunting cello solos in the soundtrack, which are just perfection.
The plot of the film is a combination of love that goes unrequited but also is passionate and thwarted, as well as revenge both justified and petty. It doesn’t have the most fast moving or even most subtle of plots, and many people might not understand the traditions of China that motivate many of the characters, but that doesn’t matter because it is beautifully shot and you still feel the heartbreak the characters are going through.
The thing that I loved most about the film though is that part of the plot is about how women are not supposed to be warriors and are just supposed the marry men, and become good wives. However three of the five main characters in the film are women who completely contravene this expectation and are either independent already or fight for their independence.
When I first saw this film I was a teenager learning martial arts, and while I certainly a lot of encouragement, I was also fighting battles against gender stereotypes of what girls are supposed to me into and what we are supposed to leave to the boys. It didn’t matter that I was better than most of the boys and that I could beat them in a fight (which I did frequently in order to win competitions) I had to justify why I did it and I was faced with constant surprise when I proved myself to be good, some of which came from one of my teachers as well.
Needless to say I was in a toxic environment, which ironically also introduced be to martial arts films, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon where there were strong female characters in fight scenes, being completely kick-ass and destroying gender stereotypes at the same time.
I love it and I hope the sequel can do the original justice.