Saw Jet Li‘s new movie Fearless last Friday. Fearless is a story about the Chinese martial arts guru Huo Yuanjia (1869-1910), played by Li, who founded the Chin Woo (also known as Jing Wu Men) martial arts school in Shanghai in 1909.
Apart from the breathless fighting scenes and dedication that we have come to expect from Li, this movie to me was quite different from any of his previous movies. For a start, there was much more raw and brutal violence, but this also gave the movie a better sense of realism. After all, real fighting is not necessarily suave and pretty. In those days, it was often a matter of life and death.
While much of the movie’s plot is fiction, so that what was depicted is definitely not the true life story of Huo Yuanjia, in the movie we get to see many of the vulnerable, imperfect and therefore human aspects of a hero. This is where I think Li’s Buddhist beliefs and personal life experiences are most apparent. In particular, I found the exchange over tea ceremony the most illuminating: whether a type of tea is good or bad, we as bystanders are in no position to proclaim this. Who do we think we are to be able to judge and place a label on something which we cannot know fully? Similarly, it’s unnecessary and presumptuous to rank different schools of martial arts because there are no absolute truths.
The Chinese character martial consists of two parts: stop and violence. From a gifted young man out to be the best at everything, we see the same person finally finding a purpose for his talents. To me, this is the essence of the greatness of the hero in this movie.
Various news items which are worth a read:
- Official Taiwan Website
- Official China Website (with many photos and articles)
- Mother of all links at Jet Li’s Website
- More links and gossip page
- Very long review of Fearless (Author’s interpretation of Huo’s development in martial arts can be disregarded because in my opinion, the author is reading too much into the storyline and confusing make-believe parts of the movie.)