What happens when North European mythology collides with Chinese martial arts? "Jade Warrior," the first Sino-Finnish film collaboration, provides a splendid answer.
Based on the ancient Finnish myth the "Kalevala," the film is set thousands of years ago in China as the demon's eighth son threatens humanity. Only Sintai, a hero with supreme power, can save all. His prize for killing the devil is immortality, releasing him from samsara, but also from earthly joys and sorrows.
But before he meets his destiny, Sintai falls in love with Pin Yu, granddaughter of the prophet. He decides to give up his mission to meet Pin Yu again in the next round of life. Thousands of years later, the two meet in Finland. Will fate catch up with Sintai, forcing him to complete his destiny?
A good storyline always makes for a good film. The "Kalevala," which the film is adapted from, is the pride of Finnish literature. Along with "Nibelungenlide" and "Edda," it inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to create "Lord of the Rings."
Heroes in the "Kalevala" are mostly doomed men who achieved great merit but can never win the hearts of their beloved women. Boldly bringing together these tragic Finnish heroes with those of Chinese mythology, the film successfully presents the dilemma between one's destiny and the effort to deny it. The director believes there may be a similarity between Finnish and Chinese classics that helps the two cultures meld together in the film.
"I read some Chinese classical literature when I was very young and I found both cultures focus on the inner strength of human beings. And it is the inner strength that plays a decisive role when the hero has to make a decision between fate and love," said director A.J. Annila.
The suspense around the devil's identity, the interlocking of ancient China and modern Finland, the Buddhist notion of samsara, and the love triangle between Sintai, Pin Yu and Sintai's apprentice, make for a compelling story. Both Chinese and Finnish audiences will find the film exotic yet familiar.
Tommi Eronen, Finland's leading actor, gives a convincing performance as Sintai, who is at the same time an infatuated warrior, a powerful hero, and a man trapped in his fate trying to change it.
Rising Chinese actor Zhang Jingchu, who played "sister" in the 2005 Berlin Silver Bear-winner "Peacock," stars as the heroine, Pin Yu.
In "Peacock," she wins over the audience playing a girl indulging in a dream to become a parachute. Unfortunately she does not have many chances to demonstrate her acting skills in "Jade Warrior." All the characters in the film apart from hero Sintai are support roles. One of them is the devil, played by Cheng Taishen, a familiar face in the films of Golden Lion-winning director Jia Zhangke.
A.J. Annila, whose BA thesis was about Hong Kong films and the essence of excellent action movies, presents dazzling action scenes in "Jade Warrior."
Pin Yu, the heroine, uses a spear with a fan-like top, while Sintai fights with a sword, twig, chopsticks and even a hammer. The final battle between Sintai and the devil is carried out with a hammer and a blacksmith's anvil. Gravity-defying stunts and laser-speed jumps will delight both Chinese and Finnish film-goers.
The film opened on October 16 in Finland to be the most watched before "The Devil Wears Prada." It went on general release in China on October 24, and the DVD will hit the Chinese market tomorrow.
(China Daily 10/30/2006 page5)