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DVD Review

DVD cover



Starring: Wang Xueqi and Ge You
High Fliers Films
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: 15
Available 20 May 2013

When General Tu’an encompasses the destruction of the whole of the Zhao clan he does not account for the doctor, Cheng Ying, who attending the birth of his rival's son. In the midst of the massacre, Cheng takes the new-born and when Tu’an rounds up all the new-borns he substitutes his own son, condemning him to death. He raises the young prince, now named Bo’er, dreaming of gaining his revenge by having Bo’er kill the general when he is a grown man, but when the general take the two into his retinue emotional ties start to complicate matters...

Sacrifice (2010 - 2 hr, 02 min, 31 sec) is a historical drama directed by Chen Kaige from a screenplay by Chen Kaige and Zhao Ningyu.

The film suffers from an excess of technique, too many jump cuts, endless fades all of which actually become a distraction and break up the flow of the film. That said, this only really affects the film during the battle sequences and are an attempt to hide the lack of actual actors in the scenes.

When not engaging in its martial side the film becomes a very intimate portrait of a man seeking vengeance for the death of his own child. You Ge (Cheng Ying) is an excellent actor, taking centre stage he successfully carries much on the film and much of its emotional content.

Having lost his own child, although the film is initially a bit vague at the beginning as to which child is actually killed, Cheng devises a plan to take care of the child until he is old enough to revenge his slaughtered parents and clan. The crux of the plan is to get them both into the retinue of the general, Tu’an (Wang Xueqi), which succeeds. It’s at this point the film comes into its own with the growing affection between Bo’er, who still believes that Cheng is his father and between Bo’er and the general, who takes a shine to the lad.

So, can Cheng actually go through with his plan knowing it might mean the death of a child he has taken care of for fifteen years? Even the General, when he thinks he knows Bo’ers real identity and has a chance to let him be killed, relents and saves him. The two men stand either side of the young prince, one intending to turn him into a weapon, the other needing to kill him to retain his grasp on power. But, because of their long relationship and affection, neither is able to let go of their feelings and let violence ensue.

On the surface the film could have been called ’revenge’ and if you only get a surface reading of the plot that is what you may think, but the film is really about sacrifice. Cheng’s wife sacrifices their own child to save the only surviving Zhao and in turn Cheng loses both his own child and wife. In the end both Cheng and the general pay the ultimate sacrifice when Bo’er’s safety is finally in peril.

As a historical drama the sets and costumes are suitably impressive as is the film's score. Unfortunately the copy sent for review was just a burned in letter boxed copy of the film, surrounded by a black boarder, so it’s difficult to say what the actual retail disc will look like. With a good copy the film should look impressive, but on what was provided it’s difficult to say. The supplied disc also had no extras or menu.

Overall, the film is a very enjoyable historical romp with a deeper hidden moral.


Charles Packer

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