Friday, August 8, 2014

Angel Without Wings

Here is the classic tale of the sheltered princess who dreams of living the life of a lowly peasant, the bored wealthy who dreams of living the life of a tortured soul. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a martial arts film with a universally recognized story line. The only difference is that, by the end of the film, she does not learn to appreciate her good fortune and she does not make a prince out of a lesser love. Instead, this film ends in death. But, death does not leave the female lead or the collective audience with any sense of resolution.

When Jen abandoned thoughts of returning to her prominent family and Lo convinced her to reconcile with her loved ones, he told her a story. There was once a boy whose parents passed away, and he was told of a mountain that would grant a wish. He climbed to the top of that mountain in order to jump off, wishing for his parents to live. The moral of the story, as told by Lo, was to believe; he wanted Jen to believe that he could become a respectable man and gain her parents approval of their love.

The film concluded differently. In the final scene, Jen reaches the top of the mountain—which we discover is Wudang Mountain—to reunite with her lover for one night and to make her own leap the following day. This crucial moment leaves her lover with heartache and the audience with ambiguity. The conclusion of the film leaves room for interpretation, interpretations that must be explored.

To begin, did she die or not? Originally, I presumed she had committed suicide, but upon discussing the possibilities with my peers, I realized that some might not consider her leap as a leap to her death. If not death, what did she leap into? The possibilities could include limbo, nirvana, or any other imaginable—or unimaginable—ethereal dimension. As she falls gracefully into the clouds, she opens her arms just slightly in relaxing her body and emanates the image of an angel. To be in a state of inhuman being in death or elsewise, Jen crystallizes into a new form—the ultimate climax to a dynamic character.

And, if the conclusion of the film is her climax, there is more to consider. To continue, why does she leap? Jen consistently proved that she not only wants to live as a nomadic warrior, but also, that she could survive and thrive in doing so. She finally arrives at Wudang Mountain and has the opportunity to partake in the lifestyle she had longed for with her lover, but she leaps away from it all. This scene follows Li Mu Bai’s death by Jade Fox’s poisoned needle, the needle that was in actuality intended for Jen. It could be considered a suicide by the guilt she bore, or more hopefully, she could have made a wish for Li’s life to return. It could be a suicide to rid the mournful burden created by her own doings, or also, she could have made a wish for life to rewind itself.

Whatever her reason, we must recognize that the original moral of her lover’s fable was about believing. Believe, and it will happen. Returning to the sight of Jen as a falling angel, we must scour her face for the look of belief, of faith. As tears filled her eyes and one shed from her face, her angel-like qualities symbolize both peaceful content and graceful melancholy. Hopeful or hopeless, her journey to be something other than herself—or perhaps, more herself—came to an end. Leap of faith or unfaith, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a fairytale without a happy ending, and Jen is an angel without wings.

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