The Assassin (2015) Poster



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  • 《刺客聶隱娘》 The Assassin is an adaptation of a Tang dynasty era Chinese story which is widely known in many different versions in Asia. The particular version used is probably the one titled《聶隱娘》 "Nie Yinniang" from the collection "Extensive Records of the Taiping Era". The HHH adaptation makes the story much more realistic; the original being far more magical/fantastical/supernatural than the film. The general sense of mystery and more specifically figuring out who's on which side are a big part of what makes the original story work. Maintaining the mystery even for those already intimately familiar with the story requires being quite elliptical. Unfortunately, this makes the film difficult to follow for those who are not already familiar with the story. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • In the original story she was named Jing Jing'er, was a Kung Fu master, and was associated with the elderly man with the huge white beard. In HHH's adaptation she's Tian Ji'an's wife, who slips into her alternate identity whenever she perceives a threat! Yinniang threatened her husband's life, so she assumed her assassin identity and sought to confront and neutralize Nie Yinniang. Many Asian viewers recognize her immediately, apparently from a combination of her personal posture/walk and the parts of her face that are visible. Western viewers however typically can only figure this out with the aid of some source of information outside the film itself. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Yes—but much of the film does assume a context that most Westerners simply do not have, and as a result a significant portion of the film goes right over their heads. Here's an example of "lost in translation": when a scene includes a painting prominently displaying pine trees, what does that "mean"? Fortunately though there's so much content and the story and the film are sufficiently universal that they can be enjoyed even by viewers who miss a whole lot because of insufficient cultural background. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Very few Westerners will fully grasp the film on first viewing; typically they'll get a lot of gorgeous images and a general sense of some conflict, and likely a piqued curiosity. But in order to thoroughly "understand" the film, HHH has said explicitly that most will need to view it two (or even three) times. (This concept is typically very foreign to American audiences, who are used to automatically concluding that if the story arc of a film isn't easily comprehended on the first viewing, that film has "failed". One may need to somehow get past that preconception to really get into this film.) Edit (Coming Soon)

  • No. Although important, Yinniang's decision to not kill Tian Ji'an is just one part of a bigger story. The film is about Yinniang's internal psychological growth: maybe to being merciful despite significant past hurts, maybe to reaching her own accommodation to the "loneliness" of the professional assassin, maybe to fulfilling her earlier charge of maintaining the peace between the Weibo province and the Tang Imperial center, maybe to a complete rejection of the mores and conventions of society... Edit (Coming Soon)

  • HHH's original conception for the death of the old man with the huge white beard was that when shot with arrows he would magically disappear, leaving just the arrows stuck in his clothing. But HHH was never satisfied with the look of any way to portray that. So in the end the adaptation was changed so the man simply stood there and died. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • One might think that because Yinniang's internal conflict and turmoil is the story, it would be quite evident. But that's not what we see. Instead, Yinniang cries only once, hardly speaks at all, and so forth. The unemotional and detached personal style is just part of being a professional assassin. It's been so thoroughly internalized by Yinniang that—even as she breaks with being an assassin—she doesn't break with that style of being. Her internal feelings actually are visible in her facial expressions and body language and especially her actions. But they're so subtle they're easily overlooked. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Princess Jiacheng, Tian Ji'an's mother, the one who came from the Imperial court and married into Weibo. As she has already died before the story begins, what we see is some kind of flashback or remembrance or imagination or perhaps just plain magic. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Up until now there's been no doubt that one of Lady Tian's boys will someday inherit the rulership of Weibo. But when Huji gives birth Tian Ji'an will have another child. That child could be a male, and could possibly grow up to be the new ruler of Weibo, displacing all of Lady Tian's children. Her marrying into Weibo could become not a way to eventually more-or-less usurp control of the Province but rather nothing more than a dead end. Edit (Coming Soon)


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