History's End

History will end only when Man does

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  • Tuesday, September 07, 2004

    Hero... for whom?

    I have recently seen the movie Hero. Upon seeing it, a post immediately came to my mind, but rather than write it right away, I decided to sit on it a little and think it through. Warning, spoilers abound.

    Hero, as a movie, is both beautiful and terrifying. The directorship and cinematography are without peer in my mind. I have gone through every movie I have seen in my lifetime, and few come even close to the level of perfection displayed in this film. Sights, sounds, colors all blend together to create a stunning experience. The acting was well done, and there were no "weak" characters, everyone gave a convincing performance. Some was lost to sub-titles, no doubt, but surprising little. Hero is without a doubt a masterpiece of cinema. Hero has etched itself into my mind, and I doubt I shall forget the experience.

    Hero has also replaced Triumph of the Will by Leni Riefenstahl as the greatest propaganda film of all time. Triumph is easily seen as a propaganda film nowadays, the same can not be said for Hero. I seriously doubt even a tenth of the audience with me understood the true nature of the film. It is in the same vein as Triumph, for it is a piece of propaganda that is designed to stoke the fires of nationalism in the hearts of the Chinese people. The whole point of the film is to serve as a justification for the integration of China by any means possible. The King of Qin is merely a metaphor of the mainland to use, a metaphor for the Chinese Communist Party. Nameless, does not kill the King because he recognizes the importance of a unified China, even though the King has greatly wronged him, and it is his right to seek Justice against Qin. In this case Nameless represents those who have been wronged by the state, and seek Justice. They are reminded that a unified, and thus peaceful, China comes before anything else. It is a rancid form of nationalism that would be denounced if voiced in the West, but the beauty of this work, and the foolishness of the West, prevents it from being revealed for what it truly is. It is horrifying. The last ten minutes of this film, nay, ever since the words "Our Land" were uttered, I knew full well what this film was about. Everything became clear. Yet I found myself unable to not cry, the power of this movie was so great I could't throw off its effect. This film is statist and nationalist to the extreme. It scares me. Hero argues that violence now, however brutal and terrible, is worth the goal of a unified China. This is quite obviously a pre-justification event for the hostile takeover of Taiwan, or any part of what was China.

    “Our Land” could be exchanged with “ The Fatherland”, and nothing would be lost.

    Everything in this movie serves a purpose. The King, Nameless, Sky, The Lovers, Moon, The Elders.

    The King represented the leadership of China. He is charged with doing terrible things for a grand purpose. His methods might be detestable, but who are we to argue with his goals? Is not the good of the many greater than the good of the one?

    The Lovers are a careful attempt to demonstrate that even love must submit itself to the needs of the state. Broken Sword understood this, he knew that his passions must be put in check, the dream of an unified China was worth this. He is the rebel who eventually realizes he is fighting for the wrong cause. His lover didn't realize this, and he had to pay for her foolishness. This is both an attack upon love, which interferes with our duty to the dream of "Our Land", and an attack upon women, who are considered foolish and unable to grasp the greater concepts of life. Sexism lives on...

    The Elders represent not the leaders of the country, but their advisors. They are seen as imperfect, but trying none the less. Indeed, they way their role is set up in the film, it seems to me that the Chinese leadership wants to have them blamed for all wrongs, as compared to the leadership itself. Middle Management, which they essentially represent, is the group truly responsible for any wrongs, and they should be blamed, not the King(leadership). This is essentially a borrowing of some principles of Machiavelli which still make sense today.

    The most purpose to be found in the movie is found in the one without a name. Nameless he is called, for more reasons than just adding another touch to the movie. He is without a name because a name implies identity. A name indicates we have an identity, and that in turn implies we have at least some individuality. Individuality always detracts from the power of the state, to whom we are to give everything, because it is the state which advances the ideal of a unified China. So individuality must be destroyed. And to do this we must have no name, no identity of our own. Nameless is not important because of who he is, he is important because of what he does. That is his purpose. He reminds us that the state must always come first, and that we must check our individuality in order to serve the needs of the state. His death in the end, while perhaps Unjust, was necessary for Order, which is necessary to preserve the state. Everything he does is done in order to preserve the state. For this he is considered a hero. If we all do the same in our lives as he, up to the ideal of giving our lives for the state, we are heroes as well. We are heroes if we allow ourselves to become nothing more than a tool for the state, submitting ourselves to it, giving it our body, our mind, and our soul. Love, honor, justice, they are nothing as compared to the Order than can be brought about by the state. And herein we find the lie. Nameless, does in fact have a name, though it is never given in the entirety of the movie. His name is THX-1138.

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