Der nachfolgende Beitrag wurde ursprünglich für ein englischsprachiges Internetforum zur chinesischen Kultur verfaßt. Daher ist er in englischer Sprache verfaßt. Er hat die überdurchschnittlich hohe Bedeutung von Literatur für den chinesischen Film zum Thema.
This is a very interesting fact – though not unique in the world. Japan anime series where the plot of each episode repeats itself to a very high degree with many scenes exactly derive from the tradition of japanese theatre as a japanese student told me. The attraction for the japanese would lie in continued repetition – an idea which may be found in artstyles like painting as well. Western movies are also influenced by the history of Europe and America: whole genres like “Western”, “Medieval Movies”, “Pirate Movies”, “Historical Movies” emerged. Among movies inspired by literature Shakespeare was particular influential.
However China differs from the West! The common cultural ground is much higher since there is for example a fixed canon of literature and stories commonly known. Many of the most popular Hongkong movies are based on literature of folk tales:
Folk Heros – Wong Fei Hung is not only the most popular chinese folk hero – about no other figure exist more movies (not even Robin Hood). – Fong Sai Yuk is another example for this (others I do not know insofar…)
Beijing Opera – Beijing Opera was certainly highly influential to develop the “mixed” style of Hongkong movies. It is very hard to characterize Hongkong movies by western categories: they mix romance, absolute nonsense humour, drama, action and violence in a way which is too much to bear for most westerners. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” – hugely popular in the west is strongly disliked by most of the Chinese I know. On the other hand I have to admit that I really needed some time – and still need – to get used to watch Chinese movies. Often I can only understand and fully appreciate them after several times of watching. – Famous operas upon which movies based are “Liang Shanbo and Zhu Jingtai”, “Peony Pavillion”, “Legend of White Snake” as far as I know. Certainly there are more I do not know about.
LITERATURE: Now I want to speak about the aspect of literature which is very crucial from my point of view. Stephen Chows parody of “Journey to the West” – “A Chinese Odyssey” must be mentioned, as well as “Flirting Scholar”, based upon a Ming Dynasty short story! “Sex and Zen” a CATIII movie from Hongkong was based upon “JouPuDuan”, another erotic ming novel, “A Chinese Ghost Story” and many other movies of the same genre are based upon stories from Pu Songlings collection of Ghost Tales. Many Wuxia-movies are based upon novels by Louis Cha (I found few english information about him, but much reference), such as the Swordsman series or Dragon Gate Inn.
Something interesting is the Chinese tendency for variation of the same theme (there are many movies which copied the style of “A Chinese Ghost Story”, but also the tendence to parody itself. In “Royal Tramp” Brigitte Lin made a great parody of her crucial role of Dong Fang Bu Bai, whereas Yan Yee Kwan who played the evil villain in this movie certainly parodies similar roles in many other movies. Chinese Ghost Story III parodies Chinese Ghost Story I – also with the same actress – Joey Wong – in the role of the ghost.
There are also many examples of movies from Mainland China and Taiwan which use a classical or modern story as plot – like “The Emperor and the Assassin” by Chen Kaige or “Women Sesame Oil Maker” based upon a modern chinese short story.
The remarkable thing is that particularly those movies who quote classical literature – gained popularity and recognition across the borders of China. After hundreds of years, Chinese classical literature is still powerful enough to conquer a new medium with its content and energy.
After reading “The Scholars” and “Outlaws from Liangshan March” in english I was amazed by the style and content of chinese storytelling.
Internationally Chinese movies increasingly gain ground – and I hope the interest in them and chinese culture in general may increase and expand.
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Text: Daniel Walter (19.03.2002)