When people discuss Zhang Yimous latest epic the first thing they do is compare it to Hero which one is better? And that is only natural. Both films take place in historic China, both are of epic proportions, both are stunningly beautiful and you simply MUST see them both.
The year is 850, the Tang Dynasty is declining, the Emperor incompetent and the government corrupt. Two captains, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) suspects Mei (Zhang Ziyi) the beautiful but blind new dancer of the Peony Pavilion to be a member of the leading underground rebellion group, The Flying Daggers. They are ordered by their superiors to find the new leader of The Flying Daggers and the hatch a scheme to get Mei to lead them to him.
The plot has a twist or two to keep things exiting and give us lots of beautifully choreographed action scenes. There is a fight scene in a bamboo forest, the like of which you have never seen before. If that scene doesnt make your jaw hit the floor, I doubt you have a pulse.
Now love enters the scene. Melodrama is added to the action and beautiful scenery and melodrama carries the rest of the film.
And this is where it differs from Hero. In Hero the greater good of the people took precedence over the characters personal loves in House of Flying Daggers the characters struggle with this concept, and the personal love wins. For me that made the emotions more down to earth and real for others it may be the other way around. Be aware that the melodrama is a bit heavy in the last part of the film. If that turns you off, you will definitely prefer Hero.
House of Flying Daggers is stunningly beautiful. Once again Zhang Yimou proves his poetic mastery of the media. This time he uses the seasons to define the mood. The colors he finds, the frames he chooses, his sure eye for detail all this will keep your eyes glued to the screen.
Hero and House of Flying Daggers are both incredibly beautiful epic films with the focus on scenery, colours, cinematography and mood. Zhang Yimous two previous films, Happy Times and The Road Home were much smaller in scale and focused a lot more on the stories. So what kind of films do we want in the future?
Zhang Yimou is one of the best directors in the world. I wouldnt miss any of his films, whichever kind he chooses to make. I just hope, he does not feel that he has to make these epic stories all the time. His small scale films are such pearls that we want more of those as well.
Is House of Flying Daggers better than Hero? They are both so beautiful, that you absolutely must see them both. Heros use of color may be more innovative. The fight scene in the bamboo in House of Flying Daggers may be the most exiting single scene.
And so I could go on, but go make your own choice then we can discuss it over a beer.