VENICE, Italy (Reuters) – Zhang Yimou, the Chinese director of “The Great Wall”, “The House of Flying Daggers” and “Raise the Red Lantern”, brought a Shakespearean martial arts epic to Venice on Thursday where he was awarded for his contributions to filmmaking.
Set in a royal court of ancient China, “Ying” (“Shadow”) is the story of a man who acts as a body double for the king’s military commander as he must choose whether to keep the peace or declare war on a rival city state.
“In Chinese culture there must have been numerous cases where body doubles were used but their stories have not been told, certainly not in Chinese cinema, so I have wanted to do that for many years,” said Zhang, who also directed the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Actor Zheng Kai, who plays the king in “Shadow” as a man at the center of court intrigue in the mould of Macbeth or King Lear, described the role as a step up from his appearance in “The Great Wall”, Zhang’s 2016 film that starred Matt Damon.
“The last time I was the man standing beside the king … and this time I am the king. So it’s kind of a promotion for me,” Zheng said.
Director Zhang has worked female stars such as Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi, and in “Shadow”, he cast Guan Xiaotong as the king’s sister who refuses to be treated as his property.
“Guan’s character represents a type of a role of a younger woman, a young woman of today (a) character who calls the shots. Her fate is not decided by the games played by men, she follows her own interests to assert her dignity,” Zhang said in an interview.
Zhang, who has won two Golden Lions at the festival in the past, was given the Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award whose previous recipients include Al Pacino, Spike Lee and Sylvester Stallone.
“Every time I come back to Venice it’s like coming home,” he said in his acceptance speech.
“Shadow” screened out-of-competition at the Venice Film Festival which ends on Saturday.
Writing by Hanna Rantala and Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Richard Chang