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The Examples of Cultural Translation in The Film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

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Words: 1660 |

Pages: 3|

9 min read

Published: Aug 23, 2018

Words: 1660|Pages: 3|9 min read

Published: Aug 23, 2018

The film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Ang Lee is one of the controversial movies of the twentieth century. After its release in 2000, the movie instantly became a hit in the United States, but in China, the setting and location of the film, the movie reportedly became a flop (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” par. 3). In America, the film was considered a luminous martial-arts fantasy epic, which was ranked as the best film of the year. The film was highly rated in the US surpassing the then best grossing foreign-language film Life is beautiful by Roberto Benigni. Despite the increased popularity of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon film outside China, the entire presentation did not go well with the Chinese audiences (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” par. 4). The flop came about because the film presents some of its content in a way that contravened the Chinese cultural beliefs. This paper discusses the reasons that made this movie draw mix reactions from the US and the Chinese audiences given its focus on cultural translations.

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The film encompasses the deep Chinese popular culture. The film portrays itself as a product of several factors. For instance, it shows that the director and scriptwriter aimed at using the film to undertake thoughtful and critical evaluation of the Chinese classical culture (Lee 7). Based on the setup of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon film in China using Chinese characters with a worldview in mind, the film is transfigured to make the characters criticize the cultural and tradition of the Asian Pacific nation.

Ang Lee carefully produced the film by merging various forms of Taoist philosophy and Chinese mythology, which together gives a broader perspective to his main agenda. The type of design adopted differed considerably from many Asian films that in most cases adopt the esoteric way of denial and detachment (Holland par. 7). Ang Lee embraced a gently romantic humanism, which is more life affirming.

Traditionally, most of the Asian Pacific films are characterized by Eastern philosophy that in different respects varies from western films, which are characterized by its humanist sensibilities ideals. The difference is evident in three important exchanges recorded between Yu Shu Lien and Li Mu Bai, the two main characters in the film (Holland par. 3). A comprehensive analysis of these exchanges highlights the meaning and reality of human attachment in life that contradicts the Taoist mysticism view that perceives the only way to enlightenment is through detachment and illusion.

At the start of the film, the viewers are introduced to Shun Lien and Mu Bai, who for a long time had feelings for one another. However, contrary to the expectation of the audience the two have denied those feelings to pursue the demands of a Giang Hu lifestyle. In the first scene, Mu informed Lien that he had left engaging himself in “deep meditation” (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)” par. 9). Lien was shocked at how Mu could leave prematurely such practice and yet that was expected from him as a Wudan warrior. As a warrior, Mu was expected to train meditation, which was a crucial component of his regimen.

Before Mu detached himself from meditation, he narrated one incident that prompted him to quit the practice. In his last meditation, Mu told Lien that he came to a place of deep silence (Holland par. 11). While in this state, he was surrounded by light where instantly space and time disappeared. Lien concluded he had reached the place of enlightenment, but Mu confirmed to her he did not feel any sense of enlightenment, instead he was surrounded by endless sorrow that in some way was pulling him back.

Mu later realizes the “thing” that was pulling him back was his affection to Lien. By clinging to the feeling of affection, Mu knew that was against his Wudah way of detachment (Lee 7). When he was with Lien, Mu discovered there was something he was missing in his meditations. At the middle of the film, they took their affection to the next level; Mu became courageous enough to take Lien’s hand by pressing it to his cheek (Faith par. 3). While doing all this, Mu was conscious of the implications of his philosophy. He told Lien everything they were touching was temporary, according to his master there was nothing permanent in this world and the best thing anyone can do at any moment was to let go and truly possess what was real.

Wudah philosophy represented the Taoist orthodoxy, which Lien opposes. According to Lien, holding on to such beliefs is inaccurate, because everything should be taken with common sense realism. For instance, he challenged Mu that her hand is real contrary to his perceptions that everything is an illusion (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)” par. 3). Despite holding on to Wudah philosophy, Mu believed repressing feelings makes them stronger. The more they hold their hands, the more Mu wanted to be with her and in the process developed a deep sense of peace.

Towards the end of the film, Mu had been consumed by the circumstances surrounding his decisions (Faith par. 7). As such, he was wounded, and Lien encouraged him to engage in meditation to help him recover. Lien advised him to free himself from this world and let his soul for once rise to eternity; she encouraged him not to waste it any longer in this world while deeply wounded and in great pain. However, in his response, Mu refused to accept her offer (Holland par. 9). Instead, he preferred to be a ghost drifting by her side because he always loved her. Mu narrated how his life had been a waste but he comforted himself that he was not going to be a lonely spirit.

Mu’s Wudan philosophy was a complete lie and could not hold. It is evident his entire training was a total waste (Faith par. 9). He willingly stopped his intention to pursue his dreams for the sake of love. As the film further unfolds in the last scene, the viewers are warned to stop viewing. It is not clear why Ang Lee decided to do this way for he gave no reason. Lee opted that the viewers should find the meaning themselves. The suspense that the director creates in the film makes it difficult for the audience from different cultures to comprehend.

Jen, one of the characters in the last scene was at the top of Wudah Mountain when LO, Chen Chang, prompted her to jump from the mountain. Lo pointed to her that any person who has dared to jump down the mountain has never died. God always grant the wishes of those courageous enough to jump by making them float on air (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” par. 7). Lo convinced Jen that if she jumped her wish will be granted. Jen without contemplating further jumped, and she floated in the mist before she disappeared from view. Earlier before she jumped, Lo promised Jen they would be in the desert together. What happened next contradicts Lo's promise because after Jen jumped she float away and never return, so the promise to be together in the desert never materialized. The whole thing became a Zen-like paradox (Faith par. 2). Apparently, this represents the decision Mu should have made. In the end, the film can be seen as a rather well choreographed story that is interesting and thrilling to watch.

In the American perspective, arrangement and the design of the film are such impressive for it is intertwined with love stories. It is considered the best martial art movie emphasizing purely personal excellence and has nothing to do with fighting (Lee 13). Several American reviewers termed the movie a "touching love story,” and most of them are moved by the sheer gracefulness of the actions carried out by the characters. The western viewers admired how everything was done lightly, quickly and easily. They applauded how different characters leapt endlessly to the point they became exhausted. Viewers cannot help but relate to the sheer physical grace of the scene. Often this is not common in most movies.

On the other hand, this film became a flop in China because Lee distorted the Wuxia genre in an attempt to appeal to the western audience (Ebert par. 7). It contradicted the Chinese traditional accepted norms to dissect and expose prohibited feelings and sexual tension that cannot be achieved using Wuxia genre. Essentially the film is not Chinese, but as revealed by Lee, in some instances one has to be westernized in a way to expose more of Chinese culture (Ebert par. 3). Thus, while attempting to do this way, Lee failed to carry along Chinese audience. Chinese critics faulted the movie for its apparent distortion of the true meaning of Chinese culture. Most of them view Lee encroached too much the Chinese culture in an attempt to accommodate the western audiences. The termed the genre used as a misunderstanding of the Chinese traditions for the sake of western viewers who do not know much about Chinese culture.

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Therefore, the mixed reactions that the film elicited from the audience make it an element of cultural translation. The film’s focus on the Taoist philosophy makes it appear as if it is criticizing the cultures that do not subscribe to the philosophy. In attempting to appeal to the western audience, the director is said to have distorted the Chinese cultural dimension of the film. Although the distortion occurred, the director’s move to make the film appeal to an audience outside china is an indication of cultural translation. The move indicates that the director wanted the film to capture cultural aspects of people outside China. Besides, the flopping of the film in China formed the basis of discussion in the film industry and thereby it served its cultural purpose of getting people to talk about the cultural aspects that should be considered when writing scripts for movie.

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The Examples of Cultural Translation in the Film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. (2018, July 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-examples-of-cultural-translation-in-the-film-crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon/
“The Examples of Cultural Translation in the Film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” GradesFixer, 20 Jul. 2018, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-examples-of-cultural-translation-in-the-film-crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon/
The Examples of Cultural Translation in the Film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-examples-of-cultural-translation-in-the-film-crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon/> [Accessed 21 May 2024].
The Examples of Cultural Translation in the Film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Jul 20 [cited 2024 May 21]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-examples-of-cultural-translation-in-the-film-crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon/
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