A film directed by Zhang Yimou.
The use of strong colours is a signature of Zhang Yimou's work and the costumes, props, and decorations were taken almost entirely from Chinese paintings of the period.
House of Flying Daggers uses Wu Xing color-theory in both a deliberate and ironic manner.
House of Flying Daggers
CHINA 859 A.D.
After 241 years of prosperity,
the Tang Dynasty is in decline. The Emperor is weak and incompetent.
His government, crippled by corruption, no longer controls the land and unrest sweeps the country.
Village by village, an underground alliance forms...
'The House of Flying Daggers'.
Based in the Feng Tian county, near the imperial capital, The House Of Flying Daggers moves in the shadows,
stealing from the rich to give to the poor, earning the support and admiration of the people.
At the same time, they are feared and hated by their bitter rivals... the local deputies, Captain Leo, Captain Jin.
We're heading out on patrol.
We're going to be busy again.
The Provincial Office has given us ten days to catch the new leader of the 'Flying Daggers'.
What? It took us three months to assassinate their old leader. Ten days? Impossible.
Have you heard of the new Peony Pavilion?
Does anyone know you there?
No, I haven't been there yet.
Good, now's your chance. We suspect one of the showgirls is a member of the 'Flying Daggers'.
OK, I'll check it out.
In the north there is a beauty;
surpassing the world,
she stands alone.
A glance from her will overthrow a city;
another glance will
overthrow a nation.
One would rather not know
whether it will be a city
or nation overthrown.
As it would be hard to see
a beauty like this again.
written by the
Han Dynasty poet
What's your name?
Mei? Every girl here is named after a flower.
Why is yours so plain?
I don't want to compete with those girls.
What do you mean?
The flowers here can hardly be called flowers.
Real flowers bloom in the wilderness.
If you impress me I'll take you to where the real flowers grow.
Please calm down, sir.
What's the matter?
Please let me explain. This girl is young and inexperienced. Please forgive her.
Take her away.
This is the Captain of the County.
To hell with the captain!
Outrageous! Arrest him.
Let me go. Who are you?
How dare you! I'm the captain. You're drunk and indecently dressed. Arrest both of them.
Get your hands off me.
Let me go.
Please spare the girl, Captain. That man was drunk. It was not her fault.
Please don't arrest her. Our business is new. I rely on her to bring in guests.
How can a blind girl be a top showgirl?
She's a dancer with rare skills. Please see for yourself.
Do you know the 'Echo Game'?
I played it once...
All right. Perform well and I'll let you go.
Thank you, Captain.
Go and change quickly.
Who are you, really?
Why do you want to kill me?
Government running dogs... I wish to kill all of you!
I do enjoy fighting a blind girl.
We found this in her room.
You're a member of the 'Flying Daggers'. Who's the new leader? Where's the new leader?
I'll show you what we'll do if you don't answer.
In front of you is a torture device. Your head will be put here. Your shoulder, here. Your back, here. Your legs, here. You'll never dance again after this. Do you understand?
You have one day to think it over.
This girl reminds me of someone.
Rumor has it, the old leader's blind daughter disappeared after his death.
Why would the old leader's daughter end up in a brothel?
Forget it.Let's turn her over for a reward, and then go out for a drink.
I have a better idea. Since we have some clues, let's follow them through for a bigger reward.
Do you want me to do it?
Of course, who else?
Who are you? Why did you rescue me?
Why do you think? You're an exquisite flower. I'll do anything to help you.
Don't worry. I'm no longer a guest of the Peony Pavilion. You're not a showgirl anymore. You're the daughter of the old leader.
What did you say?
How many blind girls know martial arts and carry daggers like these? I've rescued you, and your daggers as well.
Why did you take such a risk?
I hate the corrupt government and admire the 'Flying Daggers'.
Much obliged. Why did we abandon the horses?
Hoof prints can be easily tracked. I have two new horses hidden ahead.
You've planned well. What's your name, Master?
Just call me Wind.
I wander around all alone, come and go without a trace.
Like a carefree wind?
No, a playful wind.
You like to tease. I wonder what you look like?
That's easy to find out. Here.
Please let go.
This isn't the Peony Pavilion. No rules here. You'll know what I look like if you touch my face. Come on.
It's not respectful to touch your face first.
I asked you to start up here, but if you .. All right.
You've mastered the flying technique.
Your right hand knows its way around a blade.
Your left hand is powerful with a bow and arrow.
Your heart has a sincere and steady beat.
You can read me like a book.
And you are also courageous.
Well, I've never been shy around women.
You're young, indeed.
You know how to hold your drink.
Troops are heading towards us!
I've lost my dagger pouch.
Leo and the government troops attack Mei and Jin.
Mei, I'm sorry I was late.
After some fierce fighting, the
I won't be late again.
Which way should we go?
We keep on heading north.
We just head north?
Don't worry, the Flying Daggers will come to us.
They must have many fighting masters. Why did they send you as an assassin?
No one sent me. I'm here by myself.
As the daughter of the old leader, you should be more cautious. Do you know what's at stake?
I'll do anything to avenge my father.
Here are some men's clothes. Put them on for now. I won't take advantage of you.
Jin looks at Mei as she bathes in a pool.
Have you seen enough? Please hand me the clothes.
You knew I was here?
Master Wind wanders like the wind. I'd expect you to be anywhere.
You look different in men's clothes.
Do I look awful?
I will tell all the girls to wear men's clothes the next time I visit the Peony Pavilion.
Now I know you're not shy around women.
You're not very shy either.
Why is that?
You knew I was watching you bathe, but you didn't say anything.
You did save my life, didn't you? I can afford to let you look.
I thought you were hot as fire. But actually, you're cool as water.
Jin kisses Mei.
I don't know you well enough.
I really care for you.
A playboy like you, are you ever for real?
What if I am this time?
Jin sneaks away to meet with Leo.
Are our men around?
I'm sure today's fighting has fooled Mei. Our men will ease off from now on.
Good. That'll save my arrows.
Don't let her see through your pose.
Hey, don't worry. I've never failed at seduction. I have her complete trust.
I warn you, don't fall for her.
Fall where? Into bed?
She could be very cunning, just like her father was. Don't let her fool you.
Don't be absurd, Leo. I'm in complete control of things. I have to get back now.
Don't turn a game into something real and ruin our plan. Have a care.
As long as our plan works, who cares?
Shall we rest for a while?
I smell flowers. You told me you'd bring me to where real flowers grow. How do I look?
Pretty as a flower.
Government troops attack Mei and Jin ferociously.
I'm on your side.
I am a captain of the county.
I don't think so. You're the one who let her out of jail!
The fierce attack continues until a masked man aided them in driving the troops away.
Was that someone from the Flying Daggers?
I don't know.
He's gone. I guess he doesn't want to reveal himself.
This time, I believe I can trust you. You've done enough for me now. Leave please. Be on your way, Jin.
I can't leave you now. We've come this far.
Jin meets with Leo again.
I hope you're not seriously wounded.
We agreed - no more fights. What were the government soldiers doing there?
The general sent them, they had no way of knowing you.
What, the general? How did the general get involved in this?
This is an important case. I had to make a report. And now the general is taking over.
The soldiers didn't have to be that aggressive, did they?
The general's orders. He said we need real blood to draw the Flying Daggers out.
Even if the blood is mine?
Jin, the soldiers' lives and our lives are worth nothing to him.
You have no idea how it made me feel as I was killing our own men.
I truly regret taking on this mission. I've followed you all the way. Endured many sleepless nights. My heart grows heavy when I think about what lies ahead.
Is there really no other way to do this?
The general said it's the only way to expose the 'Flying Daggers'.
Jin, you should know, there are more soldiers ahead.
The general sent them. They don't know you either.
Leo, you have to stop them.
There is nothing I can do. The order given to these soldiers is 'Fight to kill'. If you don't kill them they will kill you. Good hunting.
Back with Mei.
Where have you been? I have a question for you.
I need honesty.
What do you mean?
Do you feel anything for me?
Don't take this so seriously.
I want to know.
I'm a free spirit, like the wind, always moving. The wind never thinks too much.
I want the wind to stop and think.
The wind can't do that.
Not even for me?
The wind breezes through without a trace. Now you understand why I'm called Wind.
Then you go and be the wind and just go blow away! I don't need you anymore! I don't care if you're true or not, I have to leave. I want to end this.
Are you going alone?
I'd like to be the wind for once.
Where will you go?
Who knows. Whichever way the wind blows.
Aren't you going back to the 'Flying Daggers?
Do you want me to go back?
I've left them, why would I return. Thank you for all you've done for me. Go. You said the wind could not stop.
A playful wind stops at will.
You shouldn't have come back.
I came back for you.
The third and most ferocious government attack appears to doom Jin and Mei, but the Flying Daggers rescue them in the nick of time, taking them back to the House of Flying Daggers.
Yee, the local Flying Daggers commander, and Jin:
To think the madam of the Peony Pavilion is the leader of the Flying daggers. I behaved badly that day, please forgive me.
Did I look like a real madam?
Very much so.
Tell me, what do you think of Mei?
What do you mean?
I mean her personality, of course.
She' very passionate.
She may be blind, but she's very bright. Hardly anyone can match her. Not even I.
Do you care for her?
What exactly are you asking?
A man and a woman travelling alone, what else could I be talking about?
Mei is a rare beauty, and I care much for her.
Then I shall act as the matchmaker so that you can marry her.
Marriage is serious. This is too sudden.
She's not a good match for you?
On the contrary, her family is a respectable one and I'm just a humble swordsman.
Our former leader loved his daughter dearly and now that I've become the new leader, it's my duty to find her a good husband. I haven't found anyone within the Flying Daggers who would be a better choice then you. What do you say?
I accept your offer.
Our House is much obliged to you. You've done us a great honour. Please accept my gratitude.
With much pleasure.
Mei and Leo joins them.
What is going on? Where are our soldiers?
Your plan was to capture us all by following Mei to where I was.
But, you're not blind? Are you the old leader's daughter?
There just happens to be a blind daughter. She can't fight, of course, so I pretended to be her.
If you had known what the truth of the matter really was, do you think you still would have come here with her?
It was all an act. Who are you, really?
My name is Mei. I'm just one of many girls in the House of Flying Daggers.
That's enough. Take him out.
You wait here. I want to finish him off myself.
Do you have anything to say?
You're not Nia, the new leader.
You're right. Of course I'm not Nia. Nia wouldn't show herself so easily.
Who are you then?
That is not important. Nia sent me to finish this matter.
You've done a good job, Leo. We've never met before, but I know you by reputation. Three years ago, we planted you as a mole in the government. You've accomplished much in that role.
I failed to protect our old leader from being assassinated.
Nia knew that you were away on duty. There was nothing you could do.
I'm grateful for her understanding.
We need to win this battle against the government troops. You and Mei have successfully set up a trap for the general. Well done. I'll report to Nia and have you rewarded.
It's my duty. Please tell Nia the general has led all his best soldiers towards us. Be very careful.
Don't worry. Nia has a good plan.
There is one thing I don't understand.
Who sent Mei on this mission?
Has Nia ever considered my feelings?
What do you mean?
I haven't seen Mei for years. Now I have to watch her flirt with another man.
It's not the first time Mei's used her beauty to aid our cause. I've heard about your feelings for her. Do you still love her?
We're facing a battle that will decide the fate of the 'Flying Daggers'. The troops are closing in. This is not the time for love.
But all right. I will let you see Mei.
You haven't changed.
I'm still Mei.
It's been three years. Finally, we're alone together.
Yes. You saved me during the battle with the government soldiers. Thank you.
There's no need for thanks. Know this, Mei, I would do anything for you.
I know. You've risked everything going undercover and earned a great deal of honour and impressed me greatly.
You're the only one who understands just what I've been doing. You were in my thoughts every moment. My love for you was all I had to keep me going. Do you love Jin? You knew the plan. It was only an act between you and him. There is no future for you. Do you understand?
Leo tries to force himself on Mei and she wounds him with one of her daggers
You can't force a woman against her will.
Do not pull this dagger out. I'm sending you back to keep spying for us and you will be more convincing with one of our daggers in your back. You must leave immediately.
I have sacrificed three years for you. How could you love Jin after just three days?
Mei, I also have a task for you. Jin is of no use to us anymore. Take him out and kill him. Leo plays a crucial role for us. We can't let Jin ruin our plan. His death is necessary to prevent any future trouble. You know the rules of our House, Mei.
I left you in order to save your life, but then you followed me. Please don't blame me for this. If your plan succeeded, many in the 'Flying Daggers' would have died. You wouldn't let me go either. It would be me on my knees, waiting to die.
You're right. If I won, I wouldn't let you go.
How will you explain this to Nia?
That's my business.
Why don't you come with me? Deep in your heart, you have a secret. I guess there is a man you find hard to leave behind.
Yes, a man who's saved my life many times.
Was it he who helped us in the last battle?
Then he has saved my life too. Do you still love him?
When can we see each other again?
We cannot. We're from different worlds. If we meet again, one of us is going to die.
A decisive battle is imminent. You and I are just pawns on a chessboard. Nobody cares if we live or die. Let's go away together and roam the world, as free as the wind. We'll wander around alone. Come and go without a trace, like a playful wind. No, a carefree wind. Just you and me. Come with me, please.
After Jin’s departure, Mei has second thoughts and decides to follow him.
Seeing her betrayal from a distance, Leo slings a pair of flying daggers at Mei, who is able to fend off one of them, but is mortally wounded by the other.
You're going with Jin? Why? You're the love of my life. You don't have to love me, but you can never go with him. It will mean your life.
Mei, you've forced me to kill you.
I knew you would do this.
You knew and you went anyway. Why? Why did you go? Why did you go? Why?
To be free... like the wind.
Turn... Turn around. Look behind you.
Jin decided to come back for Mei, and seeing her dying, he fights with Leo.
You're a member of the 'Flying Daggers'.
You're the one who loves Mei?
Yes, I love her truly, while you are only playing a game.
If you love her, why would you kill her?
It's all your fault.
I warned you but you wouldn't listen. If I can't have her, no one will. She has betrayed me because of you. You must die!
Fine. You kill Mei, you must die too!
Let him go. If you kill him, I'll kill you with this dagger.
Mei! Don't pull the dagger out! If you do, your blood will drain and you will die.
You must not do it! Mei, I'm closer to him. He will hit me first. You cannot save me with your dagger.
You shouldn't have come back...
I came back for you, my love...
There was a field in my old town where we always played hand in hand
the wind was gently touching the grass
we were so young so fearless
then I dreamt over and over
of you holding me tight under the stars
I made a promise to my dear lord
I will love you forever
time has passed, so much has changed
but the field remains in my heart
I need to tell you
I still love you
I reach out
you fly around me
Zhang Yimou’s House of Flying Daggers (Shí Miàn Mái Fú, 2004) was his second successive foray, following Hero (Yi-ng Xióng, 2002), into the Chinese wuxia martial arts genre popularized by Hong Kong filmmakers. This turn to wuxia was a dramatic shift from Zhang’s earlier, highly artistic and dramatic work.
Like Hero, House of Flying Daggers, even with a much smaller budget, excels in the area of cinematography. And as with many of Zhang Yimou’s films, the use of color as a motif and as an expressionistic element is stunning. Xiaoding Zhao, who had been the camera operator behind cinematographer Christopher Doyle in Hero, takes over the reins and is the cinematographer on this occasion, and the resulting work was nominated for an Oscar in 2004. Zhao continued on to be Zhang Yimou’s cinematographer for his next two films, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles (2005) and Curse of the Golden Flower (Manchéng Jìndài Huángjinjia, 2006).
The final fight between Jin and Leo is punctuated by a violent snow storm that appeared unexpectedly on the shooting location during the course of the action and Zhang Yimou decided to incorporate it into the scene.
It is worth noting that a key subtext to the theme of the film is the idea of personal deception, or perhaps we should say, human authenticity. All of the principal characters, Jim, Leo, Mei and Yee, are constantly dissembling and pretending to be people they are not:
Yee is variously presented as a brothel matron, the leader of the Flying Daggers, and then merely a commander of the Flying Daggers. Mei is variously a blind dancer, the daughter of Flying Daggers leader, and a warrior of the Flying Daggers.
Jin is variously police captain, a renegade recruit for the Flying Daggers, and a carefree wanderer beholden to none.
Leo is variously a police captain and a spy for the Flying Daggers. Since the focalization of the film is primarily that of Jin, the viewer is not fooled by Jin’s deceptions, but is successively fooled by all the others. The film reminds us that however convenient deception can be in the short run, it can also prove to be fatal.