An East Asian film directed by Herman Yau, The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake raises the socio-political instability of the turn of the century as the Qing Dynasty encouraged the oppression of women in their society. Poet, come martial arts enthusiast Qiu Jin (played by Huang Yi) witnesses and disagrees with a society that forces young girls to bind their feet so that they are at the command of their fathers and husbands. She is forced into marriage by means of wealth and her husband is then disappointed in her embarrassing behaviour as a woman standing for her rights; he feels somewhat more inferior to her as the film progresses.
There are two themes running through the film: the main being the feminist stand for equal rights and the other is how the West are colonising in China, causing homelessness and unemployment. The war against the West is touched upon as the men say that they are safeguarding the country; however, the women have no power to join, no matter how much they wish to. Qiu’s husband abuses her as he argues that although she does her martial arts and poetry about reform, she has no rights. The film highlights the inequalities of this period well: the disappointment of giving birth to a daughter was extremely well acted on Kevin Cheng’s behalf. Chinese culture of carrying on names is pinnacle for families; thus daughters can neither take the name through or safeguard.
In terms of storytelling; the film begins with the siege of the Da Tong school where Qiu Jin was preparing for her revolution; mass murder was taken place and Jin captured by the Government for interrogation. Scenes of her torture and discussion with the Government, not letting her strong facade down, run throughout the film and finally it ends with her execution from revolutionising against the dynasty. A timeline runs through the film which shows how her revolution developed over a stretch of around six years; this allows the viewer to get a good indication of the determination of this woman’s quest for equality. Furthermore, the use of stills in flashbacks are poignant for a viewer although they have already seen the scenes before; this gives a fresh look to the reader which emphasises the importance of the flashback.
Sad scenes of when Qiu returns to her husband and children and they cannot remember who she was as she left them to fight for her rights; abandoning what women in China are subjected to do. However, this nicely indicates a changing attitude amongst men as in the latter stages of the film, the maids looking after the children said that their father was taking more of a role in their upbringing. This highlights a role reversal and how there is somewhat an equality. The metaphor for the revolutionary actions with the stars and how their effects are only seen time after the events really concluded nicely to the demise of the protagonist.
Although, the themes in their own right were well thought through with a lot of historical context; the martial arts, clearly very rehearsed fight scenes were a little too ‘Dragon Ball-Z’ for my taste- although it may be how they fight, the unrealistic thought is that one woman cannot seriously be in for a chance up against five trained armed men. Another disappointment was the length of the film: there were many dragged out scenes that seem to only repeat what Qiu was fighting for: the viewer was very much spoon fed with the idea of feminism throughout the film; subtlety was not a strong point to the film at all.
Overall, the themes were excellent as was the acting; however, it could have done with being fifteen minutes shorter with more realistic fighting for a revolutionary battle. 3 and a half stars.