Analysis of "Raise the Red Lantern"

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, November 1996

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Yi-Mou Zhang's Raise the Red Lantern, is a beautiful and brilliantly made film in its own right. If, however, the team of Orson Welles and Greg Toland had produced the same film it would take on an entirely different look and feel. The film would reflect Wells love for creating physical representations of thematic metaphors and the long take and Toland's brilliant use of deep space photography and mobile framing.

Under the direction of the Wells-Toland team, the film would take on subtle, yet significant differences from the very beginning. In the opening scene, with Songolian and her stepmother, the focus of the camera would still be a medium close up of Songolian; but, the previously unseen mother would now be seen in the extreme background and edges of the frame. Using deep focus and choreographing her movements the mother's character would still remain faceless, but would seem more tangible and the feeling of distance between the mother and her stepdaughter could be re- enforced.

The next major difference would be seen in the sequences involving Songolian's entrance into the house itself. In Zhang's original version, Songolian enters the frame with the inscription on the back wall shown briefly. The W-T revision would begin the entrance sequence with a medium close up of the inscription itself, slowly panning from left to right, just slowly enough to recognize the characters but fast enough to not allow the audience to actually read the inscription. The significance of the inscription on the wall has been explained as being not in the inscription, but in the characters themselves: in the oldest Chinese societies the written characters were created with arbitrary meaning assigned to them, only scholars and the aristocracy had the time and means to learn the meanings of the thousands of different characters...