Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) - Synopsis

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

In the last glorious years of the venerable Qing dynasty, China is a world on the brink of change: soon, western powers will force the country open for the opium trade, and in so doing, put an end to an immense unified empire. By western count, it is the early 19th century.

A hauntingly romantic epic spanning across the continent, Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon unfolds within this precise moment in history. The feature film is adapted from a four-volume novel by Du Lu Wang published at the beginning of the 20th century, when a rapidly changing social order made Chinese readers pine for the bygone days of the Qing dynasty, a time of Taoist values - and brought about a growingly popular genre, the wuxia, which chronicled the heroic deeds of martial-arts heroes and reaffirmed the apparent simplicity of another time.

The title Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon draws upon an ancient Chinese saying, a proverb used to characterize situations and places wherein there dwell hidden heroes and legends - and where nothing is as it seems. And so it is that within a brave warrior there lurks a man unable to declare his love; that the seeming calm of a woman fighter conceals the inner turmoil of her yearning; and that a young aristocrat betrothed to a dull man finds it within herself to rebel.

The symbolic value attached to certain treasured objects resonates throughout the film: the ancient sword carrying the good and the bad of the battles it's fought; an unseen manual imparting all manner of wisdom and fighting prowess; and a young woman's cherished comb; all conspire to propel the people who possess them toward a seemingly inevitable fate.