The Banquet (2006) aka The Legend of the Black Scorpion
Legend of the Black Scorpion
Release Date: 14 September 2006
Runtime: 131 min
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy, History, War
Director: Feng Xiaogang
The Banquet, released on DVD in the United States as Legend of the Black Scorpion, is a 2006 Chinese wuxia drama film. The film was directed by Feng Xiaogang and stars Zhang Ziyi, Ge You, Daniel Wu and Zhou Xun. It is a loose adaption of William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet and Henrik Ibsen's play Ghosts, featuring themes of revenge and fate. It is set in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period in 10th century China.
Prince Wu Luan
Minister Yin Taichang
General Yin Sun
Governor Pei Hong
At the end of the Tang Dynasty China is divided. The Crown Prince, Wu Luan, is deeply in love with the noblewoman Little Wan. However, his father, the Emperor, decides to marry Little Wan. Wu, deeply hurt, flees to a remote theatre to study the arts of music and dance. Shortly after, the Emperor is murdered by his brother, Li. The film begins as Empress Wan sends messengers to the theatre, informing Wu that the Emperor has died, and that his uncle will succeed the throne. Unknown to Wan, Li has already dispatched riders to assassinate Wu. Wu survives the attack and returns to court where he is met by Empress Wan and her lady-in-waiting Qing Nu, the daughter of Minister Yin.
When Governor Pei Hong, greets Empress Wan as 'Empress Dowager', he and his family are sentenced to a violent death. With his death, Minister Yin's son, General Yin Sun, is sent to a distant province. Wu Luan is asked by the Emperor to perform a brief swordplay ceremony, to practise for the Empress' upcoming coronation. While sparring with harmless swords, the Imperial Guard suddenly produce sharpened swords and attempt to kill Wu Luan. The ceremony is stopped by the Empress. Later in his chambers, a scroll drops from the upper balcony to Wu Luan, depicting his father being murdered by his uncle by blowing poison into his ear.
Meanwhile, the Empress Wan is to have a new coronation ceremony and Wu Luan is required to perform a swordplay ceremony. Instead, Wu Luan stages a masked mime play that exposes his uncle as his father's murderer. Rather than kill the prince and risk alienating Empress Wan, he decides Wu Luan would be traded as a hostage for the prince of a neighbouring kingdom. An ambush by the emperor's men is set up at the snowy border but Yin Sun, following the Empress's command, saves the prince.
Believing that his Wu is dead, the Emperor calls for a grand banquet. The Empress then decides to poison the Emperor. All goes according to plan until Qing Nu takes to the stage,wearing a theatre mask. The scheme to poison the emperor fails as the cup of poison was given to Qing Nu and Wu Luan reveals himself to comfort her in her dying moments. The Emperor realises in horror that the Empress had plotted his death. After a confrontation with Wu Luan, the Emperor commits suicide by drinking the rest of the poisoned wine. The Empress proclaims Wu Luan the new Emperor. However, Yin Sun attempts to kill the Empress to avenge his sister.Wu luan protects her and the Empress stabs him through the neck, but Wu Luan has fatally poisoned himself in the process. Empress Wan is proclaimed Empress Regent by the Lord Chamberlain.
In the closing scenes, Empress Wan is suddenly pierced by a flying blade from an unknown source. As she is dying, she turns around to face her assailant. Her confusion shifts to horror and anguish. The film abruptly finishes, with the audience unsure who the mysterious assailant was.
The ambiguity of the ending can produce many interpretations of who the assailant may be. Asian film critic, Bey Logan, makes a claim that the film makers initially planned for the maid, Ling, to be the mysterious assailant, and the current version of the film still shows more shots of Ling than would be normally expected of such a minor non-speaking character. A popular interpretation is that it is a manifestation of the previous Emperor, extracting revenge and justice.
When paired with the film's sung theme, the ending most likely references Louis Cha's wuxia novella Sword of the Yue Maiden. In Sword of the Yue Maiden, the tale concludes with the beautiful female clutching her waist in pain with an expression "so beautiful that it will take away the soul of any man who looks upon her", similar to Empress Wan's final expression.