Zhang Yimou Hero (2002) – Composition by Akira Kurosawa
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Zhang Yimou Hero (2002) – Composition by Akira Kurosawa

October 20, 2019


Zhang Yimou’s Hero is known for its Rashomon effect and it’s use of colors. And indeed, color is the first thing every
reviewer seems to notice. But what if Hero was in black and white, would
you still call it beautiful? You see Zhang is a fan of Akira Kurosawa,
and the majority of Kurosawa’s movies are in black and white, So if we put them next to each other, we
can see the similarities. And like Kurosawa, Zhang’s composition produces
an effect on the audience, so when you look at these images, whats truly overwhelming
is the composition instead of the color. So how does Zhang composes his images One, almost every scene is in perfect symmetry
and the subject is always at the center of the frame. Two, through careful staging, the shapes are
comforting to the eyes. Three, Almost every scene of dialogue, the
characters are framed in singles. This suggests the drama between the characters. Together when there is no conflict and separate
where there is. Four, The camera supports the emotions of
our characters, in this case swaying might suggest, anger or confusion. Five, There are always movements in a scene,
either by water, candles, leaves, cloth or wind. Six, the scale is exaggerated. Nothing ever comes in small amounts, not a
bunch of leaves nor ten arrows. Lastly, Landscape, Time-lapse and Slow motion
are nice even in black and white. So for a movie with not much dialogues, it
relies heavily on its visuals, and by putting these elements together we can see that the
aesthetics and balance of each scene allows us to understand more than what simple colors
can convey. Now, in terms of story and narrative, according
to an interview with Indiewire, Zhang explains that the message of the movie was to convey
peace. In fact, the movie has little to no blood
at all. In this scene, we don’t even see the faces
of the dying students, and in the fight sequences, the shots mostly stable. And throughout the whole film we are never
shown war footages and maybe for Zhang, there was no need, However, for Kurosawa, he had another approach, in
Ran, we are shown in many long sequences the betrayal of Hidetora’s sons, his continuos
bewilderment of it, and the aftermath of war. so when we look at the self-sacrifices of
our heroes, we understand them; but we don’t feel for them. And toward the the ending of the film, we
get is this scene where the music is doing most of the job at telling us what to feel. While in
Rashomon, Kurosawa reminds us of the real essence and the real message of the movie. Perhaps this is the reason why film critics
like Roger Ebert praises the film for its aesthetics, but also commented that the Rashomon
structure did the movie a disservice. Still, there is no doubt that Hero will always
be visually stunning movie, in color or in black and white, but maybe for all it was
trying to achieve…it’s a bit lacking to the heart.

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  1. "But maybe for all that it was trying to achieve…it's a bit lacking to the heart"

    Can someone explain what she meant? Thanks

  2. What you described is mostly the cinematography aspect of Heroes. The credit here goes to Mr. Christopher Doyle. Composition, lighting, colors and camera movement decisions are done in collaboration with a cinematographer. In this case, there is no question it's all Doyle. He is a true master of the art. Just watch his films and you will know.

  3. Terrific video! But I think the title is not reflective of the content and doesn't convey the insightfulness of the video.

  4. You gotta love the critics haha. Lacking of heart? Really? Well maybe critics are the one lacking of heart. Is one of the most beautifully emotional movies Ive seen. Just see the scene at the lake, the music, the scream of the samurai warrior, the acting, the silencie of the lake, the background with the tragic woman laying beautifully in the middle of the lake. Everything was hipnotic, I couldnt even breathe because I was totally inmersed in the scene, no just for the beautifull colors and composition, but beacase all the raw emotion that the scene exuded and emanated. But well, critics have to always complain, its their job, and when they give perfect reviews is just when it is an snob movie like from Jean Luc Goddard or something, or when they are already dead like Kurosawa.

  5. Very nice, I love both directors 🙂
    Can you explain me at 3:05 when you say that we don't feel for them, how Kurosawa achieved it ? I didn't really understand that part…Thanks !

  6. The Chinese media commented on this movie also has a similar point of view. This film is a more commercialization of Kurosawa's technique

  7. Um yeah… you lost me with that last bit. I’m pretty sure you just stepped on the toes of about half your audience. Lol

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