28 March 2010

Mulan (Hua Mulan)

Genre: historical drama. Year: 2009. Language: Mandarin/Chinese. Country: China.

Directors: Jing Le Ma, Wei Dong
Screenplay: Ting Zhang


Zhao Wei/Vicki Zhao ______ Hua Mulan
Chen Kun _____ Wen Tai, Prince of Northern Wei
Jaycee Chan ____ Hu FeiXiao, a fellow villager of Mulan
Hu Jun _____ son of nomad king
Liu Yuxin _____ nomad princess
Vitas _____ attendant of nomad king

Release: 2009
Studio: China Film Group and Starlight International Media
Country: China
Language: Mandarin
Length: 113 minutes


One day, the officers of Northern Wei Dynasty come to the village of Hua Mulan (played by Zhao Wei) to announce the call of army duty for all registered households to go to war against nomads. The ailing widowed father of Mulan is too happy to die in the battlefield. The next morning, Mulan takes her father's armour and horse and quietly rides off without telling her father.

In the army camp, she gets into trouble when the commander demands every soldiers to go through a strip search for suspected theft. Not wanting to strip before everybody, she admits the theft. The strict commander orders Mulan to be bound for execution the next morning. A soldier called Wen Tai (Chen Kun) frees her in a surprise attack by the nomads. Mulan does not escape to go home but rides back to fight. The commander is mortally wounded and his men are about to lose the battle. However, Mulan manages to kill the enemy chieftain and turns the defeat into a victory. Since then, she advances in the army and is finally promoted to the rank of general.

In the army, she develops a romantic relationship with Wen Tai, who is also promoted progressively with Mulan and becomes a general. In an ambush, Wen Tai is severely wounded. He survives the injury. As he does not want to hold back the advancement of Mulan, he does not convey a message of his survival to Mulan. In fact, Mulan thinks he is killed, while he is convalescing in the sick tent.

After years of war, the nomads are weary of fighting and their king is about to quit. Unfortunately, the king is murdered by his son, who seizes the power and gathers 200,000 horsemen to invade Northern Wei again. Mulan proposes to the commanding general to lead her camp to lure the nomads into a valley. After the nomads are trapped, the general will plan to attack from the rear of the enemy. The plan almost succeeds. Not knowing to Mulan, the general is jealous of Mulan's achievements and actually abandons Mulan to the attack of nomad horde. Mulan is wounded and her men are trapped in turn.

Facing an imminent slaughter, Wen Tai suddenly appears behind the lines of soldiers. He walks before the enemy and calls out to the nomads, holding an imperial identity badge. It turns out that Wen Tai is a prince of the Northern Wei Dynasty and has enlisted incognito. He bargains with the nomad king - his surrender for his comrades' freedom.

When Wen Tai is imprisoned, Mulan sneaks into the nomad camp. With the help of a nomad princess, she kills the king. The triumphant Mulan stands in front of the emperor and the prince. She does not want any award and simple asks for her discharge so she can go home.


(1) The story of Mulan probably stems from a 6th century ballad (song or poem) of Tang Dynasty. In the ballad, the emperor is called the khan and the village of Mulan is located along the ranks of the Yellow River, pointing to a possible time frame of Northern Wei Dynasty. The nomads could possibly be Rourans (Juan-Juans or Avars). The Avars disappeared in Asia and some historians think they migrated through Central Asia to settle in Europe as European Avars.
(2) The movie has a difficult task to show a beautiful girl who disguises as a man in the ancient army. The character of Mulan is cast dubiously a brave warrior with an apparent feminine profile - in voices, gestures and mentality. All in all, Zhao Wei looks a beautiful girl in man's clothes without much dwelling upon her disguise. Somehow, it makes the movie unreal and not too convincing.
(3) There are no physical descriptions of Mulan in the ancient ballad. In later centuries, Mulan has always been imagined to be an attractive country girl. In one tale, the emperor even finds Mulan appeasing and wants to keep Mulan as a concubine of his harem. Many other Chinese movies of Mulan used all sorts of tortuous plots to cover the disguise, though most were not done too well.
(4) Vitas is a Russian pop singer and sings in Mandarin for one theme song in Mulan. The surprised appearance of a Caucasian face in this Chinese historical movie might confuse the viewers as an indisputable and misleading interpretation of the ethnicity of the Rouran nomads or the Avar Empire.

Full movie dubbed in French, 1 hr 50 min


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