Farewell My Concubine, a Chen Faige directed film. It was released in Hong Kong in 1993, and in this film, there are several famous Chinese actors and actress, such as Leslie Cheung, Fengyi Zhang, and Li Gong. Throughout the whole 170-minute film, a piece of Beijing Opera is running through, which is called Farewell My Concubine. The two Beijing opera actors become the main characters of this film. Actually, this film talks about the whole lives of these two Beijing opera performers. However, I think this film is not only about “whom”, but more about “what”, which is Beijing opera. It shows the entire story from 1924 till 1977. Wikipedia)
In the film, the story starts where there is a woman holding her child in arm across a very crowded Chinese market. (Wikipedia) This woman cannot afford to raise her son up, and his son has an extra little finger on his right hand. His mom wants to bring him into Master Guan, and learn Beijing opera from Master Guan. Master Guan refuses her since her child has birth defect. This woman cruelly cut his child’s extra finger with a very sharp knife. Later on, the boy, who is called “Douzi” joins Master Guan’s Beijing opera training school, and then gets along with the other student who is called “Shitou”.
Shitou is several years older than Douzi, and is the big brother among Master Guan’s students. Master Guan educates and treats his students very strictly. Once his students make some mistakes or remember the wrong lyrics, he beats them on a bench mercilessly. The reason why Master Guan is very strict is that he wants his students to become Beijing opera stars when they grow up. A while later, as time goes by, Shitou and Douzi become excellent top performers for a popular piece of Beijing opera, which is Farewell My Concubine.
For this piece of Beijing opera, Douzi is trained to play a Dan role, which is a female role in Beijing opera; Shitou takes the role of the King of Western Chu, Liu Bang. Both of Shitou and Douzi changed their actual name into stage names Duan Xiaolou and Cheng Dieyi. Duan Xiaolou Duan Xiaolou, a major protagonist in Farewell My Concubine, takes an empathic role in my opinion. (Marshall) In the beginning of this film, it does not tell the background of Xiaolou, and all what the audients know is that he is an excellent and relatively older student in Master Duan’s Beijing opera training school.
His hardworking pays off when he grows up and become an irreplaceable role in Farewell My Concubine, partnering with Cheng Dieyi. In terms of his performance of Beijing opera, I do believe that he is playing an essential role in the development of Beijing opera. In the film however, his performance is not much appreciated by a well-known Beijing opera expert, Yuan Shiqing. He is very dissatisfied with Xiaolou changing the King of Western Chu’s seven steps into five steps in his performance. Duan Xiaolou is an open minded and generous person in his childhood.
As the big brother in Master Duan’s Beijing opera training school, he treats others friendly and understandably, especially Dieyi. After both of Xiaolou and Dieyi become famous stars in Beijing opera field, I finally see how realistic this person is. He goes to whorehouse for fun, and no one knows whom his “concubine” is. Is she Cheng Dieyi in opera? Or is she Juxian in reality? Adult Dieyi- the performer of Concubine Yu loves Xiaolou so deeply, far beyond their brother relationship. However, Duan Xiaolou and Juxian get married in the end.
In my opinion, I do not think that Xiaolou has a clear-cut stand on what to love and what to hate, unlike his wife, Juxian. In the period of The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, he even betray his loved one in order just to survive, and breaks his woman’s heart. Compared to what he does to protect Dieyi on the stage, I did not see any braveness on him at this point. Cheng Dieyi Since Cheng Dieyi’s childhood, I believe that he is a stubborn person, and he even burned his cotton-padded jacket, which is the only thing his mom left him with. I think Cheng Dieyi plays a sympathic role in this film. Marshall) Dieyi and Xiaolou are extremely close friends since they were very young.
As time passes by, Dieyi loves Xiaolou like a woman loves her husband. In the piece of Kun opera, Si Fan, Dieyi always remembers the wrong lyrics. “I was born as a boy, not a girl. ” which indicates that Dieyi is always long to be a female instead of a male. He takes the role of Concubine Yu in Farewell My Concubine, and was greatly appreciated by Yuan Shiqing. I still remember in the film, Yuan Shiqing even is willing to give false evidence in the court to protect Cheng Dieyi and get him out of prison.
Dieyi, he is a person who is really addicted into Beijing opera, into art, and also addicted in being the role of the king of Western Chu’s concubine. No matter in the opera, or in the real life, Dieyi has never loved other people, but only Xiaolou. After he knows that Xiaolou is going to get marry with Juxian, I can actually feel the sadness, loneliness and endless suffer. When shaping this character specially, the director Chen Kaige said: Cheng Dieyi is the one who has to die in the end, otherwise there is no other roper ways of showing his greatness. Juxian In this film, Juxian is a prostitute who has an empathic emotion from audients’ views. However, Duan Xiaolou loves her and never avoids her. I get to know how brave a woman can be after I watch this film. After Juxian gets married with Xiaolou, she takes well care of her husband, and loves Xiaolou from the bottom of her heart. In the film, Juxian does not have a good relationship with Cheng Dieyi, but for his husband’s own good, she tries to maintain a friendly relationship with Dieyi.
When Japanese Army arrests Xiaolou, she kneels down begging for Cheng Dieyi’s help. When Master Duan beats Xiaolou for quitting performing Beijing opera, she tries to protect her man. The reason why Juxian does so to Xiaolou is simply that she loves him so much that he cannot stand the loss of her loved one. As I mentioned before, in the time of The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, his husband wants to make a clear break from Juxian. Juxian gets hurt deeply, and hangs herself in the end.
“Farewell My Concubine (film).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 02 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.
“Script Breakdown: Character Analysis.” Filmmaking Tips for the Independent Filmmaker RSS. Peter D Marshall, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.