Educational Movie

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The Secret Fan of Snowflakes” tells the story of the same old story, which takes place in Hunan in the late Qing Dynasty and in modern Shanghai. The subject matter is unfamiliar to both Westerners and modern Orientals, especially the strong female consciousness and female perspective, which subvert the traditional male-centered feature of the screen, and the film subtly integrates the conflict between traditional culture and modernity. However, because the director wants to express too many themes, the various elements are only to the point and not deeply explored, and it is difficult to integrate them into one, resulting in the audience not being deeply involved in the film and even having a feeling of difficulty in understanding or identifying with it. This film reflects the awkward dilemma foreign directors of Chinese descent encounter when filming traditional oriental culture, and the obstacles women’s films encounter in the market.

In “The Secret Fan of Snow Flower”, the suffering of women in the late Qing Dynasty is also shown, including the crunching sound of bones during foot-binding, the mother’s helpless and harsh instructions, and the custom of arranged marriages by matchmakers, all of which reflect the extremely low status of women in feudal families and society. The film lacks these artistic expressions, but simply tries to restore the environment of women’s survival in the late Qing Dynasty. The film also mentions more than once that “women are born to be given away,” “women don’t have to worry about outside affairs,” and “women should pray for a son quickly. The audience seems to be reading a history textbook and can only see the surface, but cannot deeply appreciate the characters’ feelings, and there is less room for independent thinking.

Traditionally, the big screen shows a male-centered perspective and patriarchal ideology, and most films are narrated from the male perspective. Most of these films are mainstream films and can enter the market “safely” because they do not threaten the traditional patriarchal society. However, in recent years, women’s films have gradually received more attention and focus, and have gradually transformed from small independent niche films to mainstream films or even big commercial films.

The Secret Fan of Snow Flower” also inherits this characteristic, the main characters in the story are all women, and there is hardly any trace of men, even the four female characters’ husbands or boyfriends appear in the story are also very few scenes. In terms of plot, foot-binding, old homosexuals and women’s books are all important elements of women’s history, and few films have been able to use this subject matter, so the long-neglected history of women has been completely restored to the screen. “and other previously unheard of things, which undoubtedly played a significant role in raising the importance of women’s history. There are many scenes in the film that can be seen as a threat and challenge to patriarchal power. For example, Xuehua and Lily, two women of the late Qing Dynasty, are able to have their own best friend of the same sex outside of the family, and even have a more intimate relationship than friendship, and women are able to have their own love life outside of feudal marriage, which is already a great challenge to feudal patriarchal power. The women in the film learn to write “women’s calligraphy”, which is also a rebellion against the “square Chinese characters”, a system of writing and discourse for men.

One of the most direct expressions of the film’s feminine consciousness is the night Lily goes to Snowflake’s house, where Lily spies on Snowflake and her man in bed through a gap in the floor. The peepers in “The Secret Fan” are a man and a woman, but this scene still illustrates the “female gaze” that is rarely seen in films, that is, women become subjects of desire and take power in gender relations. Before Snowflake proposed to be with Lily that night, but was flatly refused by her husband, it seems that the power of men is far greater than that of women, and then Lily spied on every move downstairs, this up and down also seems to suggest the inversion of power relations at this time. Lily finished peeping, and then made a series of actions to touch their bodies, although the performance is relatively subtle, but this short scene reflects the extreme amplification of female desire. Instead, she is the one who reacts erotically when she sees the woman she loves so much having sex with other men. Women can get pleasure from voyeurism, which has long broken the traditional patriarchal negation of eroticism between women, the traditional gender power relations here.

The end of “The Secret Fan of Snowflakes”, on the other hand, draws on the theme of attraction: the world is changing rapidly, and the only thing that remains the same is the feelings between human beings. In contrast, “The Sea” elevates the emotions of individuals to the common emotions of the entire era and nation, but the reflection brought to the audience by both actually has something in common, that is, what is the position of nation, history, culture and emotion in the changing times.

In the modern Shanghai section, Nina sees small embroidered shoes and a fan with women’s calligraphy in her aunt’s art gallery, everything is covered with modern art colors. This is not the most important theme of the film, but it is worth reflecting on.

Another contrast between tradition and modernity is reflected in the ancient “three-inch golden lotus” and the modern “high heels”. The first thing Lily’s husband did on their wedding night was to “admire” Lily’s small feet, and the smallness of the form stimulated male desire, this “fetishism” (fetishism) This fetishism has contributed to the sad history of Chinese women for over a thousand years. In modern society, however, the restraints on women’s limbs have not been lifted. In one scene, Nina takes off her high heels in the office and strokes her aching feet. High heels are no less constraining to the feet than foot-binding, but in order to meet the aesthetic requirements of men for women, in order to become the perfect “ornamental object” in the eyes of men, women have to sacrifice their own bodies in exchange for the male gaze. Time has spanned several hundred years, but women are still not free from the physical bondage, which is sad but also pathetic.

Although “The Secret Fan of Snow Flower” is not a successful film in terms of narrative, structure, artistic techniques and subject matter, the thoughts it brings to the audience are still multifaceted. Director Wang Ying’s ability to bring such a subject to the big screen and turn it into a commercial film that can be released in China is a bold and successful performance in itself, and the film’s ideology and expressive themes deserve recognition. This is a film for both foreigners and Chinese people, a purely female film, an alternative “Hollywood blockbuster”.

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