Chen Ning (Jenny) Yen
Professor Rui Wang
Scholars and film critiques have often regarded the fifth-generation film Director, Zhang Yi Mou’s films as a visually sensual feast (Zhu 26). The predominant use of the color Red in his highly stylized films: Red Sorghum (1988), Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern (1991) are evidence of his trademark visual style thus leading scholars to critically analyze the symbolic representation of the color. I would argue however, in addition to the prevalent use of red in his art-house films, there are several supporting colors (black, white, grey, blue), intertwining with the color red. Zhang seems to be weaving colors together to paint a self-reflective narrative. The supporting colors provide a deeper analytical meaning to the symbolic readings of red in Zhang’s films, which represent several themes. Due to limitations, I will mainly focus on the use of color symbolisms in the cinematographic language of Raise the Red Lantern (1991).
A story about misery and inescapable fate of women in modern Chinese Society, Raise the Red Lantern as a whole is examining the issues surrounding Confucian ideologies concerning the feudal mentality, and portrays internal conflict in a domestic confinement (Kong 119). It also essentially revolves around a narrative concerning power, with the symbol of power represented by the color red.
Red, being Zhang’s favorite color, is prevalent and dominant in this film, particularly depicted by the lofty red lanterns as an invented icon of power. Whichever mistress has the lanterns lit in her room and courtyard means she is victorious over the other women moreover just as the film dialogue declares, “according to customs, the one with the lighted lanterns can have whatever she likes.” But it seems the only things these women can possess in the prison-like mansion, are frivolous;...