The Last Emperor

Essay by emmachaseHigh School, 12th gradeA, December 2007

download word file, 3 pages 4.3 1 reviews

The Last EmperorBernardo Bertolucci’s epic film, “the Last Emperor” tells the story of twentieth century China through the biography of Pu Yi. In a series of flash forwards and flashbacks we follow from 1908 when, as a three year old, he is named emperor by his aunt, The Dowager Empress CiXi through his death in 1967. PuYi is often a pawn and victim to the history around him and we see the same is true of Chinese history of the time as the Manchu Dynasty ends and the country moves from feudalism, through foreign invasion and occupation, into a revolution and finally to a more modern society.

The film opens in 1950, when PuYi is being held as a war criminal and tries to kill himself. This causes the first of many flashbacks and we see the young emperor living an incredibly opulent life within the walls of the Forbidden City.

He is always attended by many servants and followed everywhere by eunuchs. As he grows older he becomes angry when he realizes that he has power over nothing. When he learns to ride his first bicycle he is stopped from leaving the Forbidden City by his own guards. We begin to see that although he is Emperor, throughout his history he is always a prisoner. Expelled from the Forbidden City, along with his wife and consort, when he is eighteen, they are forced to live in Tianjin under the protection of the Japanese. In 1930 he becomes the puppet-emperor of Manchuko and again found himself with little freedom and no power. This was followed by fifteen years in both Russian and Chinese prisons until he was finally released as an old man in 1957.

The film maker, Bernardo Bertolucci, is known to be a Marxist and we see a...