The Bamboo Forest Fighting Sequence
The Bamboo Forest Fighting Sequence” in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Perhaps, the powerful storyline of the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was what encouraged one of the greatest cinematic martial arts directors Ang Lee, to make a film out of the Chinese novel.
In this film, Lee’s primary function is not only to portray skillfully choreographed fighting scenes, but also to connect powerful sequences of events that touches upon the emotional complex human condition that is associated with both the Taoist and Buddhist belief systems. By not allowing action to be the sole guiding force of the narrative of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lee has indeed made some adaptation to the Taoist and Buddhist philosophy. The Bamboo Forest Fighting scene adjoins all of these elements in a beautiful sequence.
The clear Buddhist and Taoist philosophies shine through each element of the sequence to produce a working subtext that respects and frames the culture of the myth’s origin. The Bamboo Forest Fighting scene is the encounter between two of the main characters Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) and Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) where they are atop bamboo trees in a duel. This is an excellent choreographed, but non-traditional fighting scene as well. The characters both seem like they are dancing with the bamboo.
In Taoist philosophy returns to the principle of allowing chi to flow without struggle, and thus the Tao informs the dance-like, rhythmic, and wavy qualities of the martial arts portrayed in the sequence; Buddhism philosophy identifies the bamboo as emptiness and true mind, thus allowing Jen Yu and Li Mu Bai to calm their mind in the forest. These principles also affect the graceful martial arts style of the sequence, martial arts that occurs often, and which is surrounded by such mystery, that it becomes a character of its own.
In the bamboo forest sequence, time and space become both illogical and inconsistent as time slows down, and Jen Yu and Li Mu Bai find themselves in a long branch facing each other (L. S. ). Another shot in the sequence, when Jen Yu is falling through the bamboo stems a low-angle shot makes her seem vulnerable as if the bamboo controls her; the next shot Li Mu Bai is at a high-angle shot looking towards Jen Yu, which makes him look graceful and dominant of the situation in the sequence. Time slows down to establish the peace, strength and the relationship between the characters.
It is this combination of a duel revealing that establishes the psychological fine points of the characters. The characters within are not simply physical beings designed to carry out the action, but instead they are developed and complicated. Therefore, Lee not only creates multi-dimensional characters, but he also displays an acute understanding of the codes and conventions of the Taoist and Buddhist ideas. These Buddhist and Taoist principles mention are the backbone forming Li Mu Bai, but represents the basic antithesis to Jen Yu actions and reactions despite her skills of fighting.
Instead of moving in harmony with the flow of chi she rebels against it. In the sequence there is a moment when they are both atop a bamboo stem and Jen Yu is trying hard to unbalance Li Mu Bai, but he looks at her with this pure innocent smile. He seems so calm and in balance with nature, because he and nature are both one. That affirms the Taoist and Buddhist beliefs. While, Jen Yu seems frustrated, unfocused, and unbalance. This specific bamboo forest sequence doesn’t have much verbal communication, but more physical in the sense of the environment and the characters.
The verbal interaction is replaced by the significance of color (background) and lighting in the sequence. Specific colors and lighting were used in respect to the Taoist and Buddhist principles. Green what is mostly seen in this sequence represents quite a broad view of what is flowing within and around the characters. The green symbolizes nature, eternal life, hope, and rebirth among other things. The lighting is high key; it doesn’t draw attention to anything specific, but puts everything as one, which is part of the Taoist and Buddhist philosophy. In the bamboo forest, long shots of the natural environment are used to show he connection of the environment with Taoism. You see this simplicity, balance, oneness and connection of nature in the fighting sequence. The characters do not stand out from the landscape. They intermingle against the trees blending in with the environment. The medium shots in the sequence, especially aerials, allow a sense of the larger scene, while close ups of the actors during the sequence give extremely intimate moments. The camera follows angled shots to create an interesting dynamic in the bamboo forest aerial sequence, the camera literally weaves with the movement of the characters.
While dynamic angled shots and weaving camerawork help the sequence, simple framing, over the shoulder shots and medium shots help restore stability and harmony to the frame. In the sequence, the harmonious framing of long shots involving the natural environment implies sadness, since nature represents the metaphor for change and passing. Such shots create a deep and light quality that filter through the sequence photography. High quality photography values give presentation to the acting values of the sequence.
The sequence construction consciously seeks for balance within itself the photography, which glues the sequence distinct elements into a unified framework. In the photography of the sequence, harmonious balance and symmetry rule, and are suggestive of Chinese landscape painting, and art form also influenced heavily by Taoism. Chinese painting and Taoism are like yin and yang, for one cannot exist without the other. Indeed one might almost say that Chinese painting, particularly landscape painting, is a projection in visual terms of Taoist and Buddhist philosophy.
It is a demonstration of endless process of harmonizing opposites, which goes on in the sequence. Photography and the long shots of the bamboo forest create a powerful sense by giving us the viewer a sense of dimension, as well as allowing the actors a chance to react. Overlaying the masterful photography work, the bamboo forest scene sound represents the finishing touch of the sequence, a final powerful link in the creative chain that heightens the timeless and lyrical tone. As well as taking the audience on a journey downs the emotional paths of the characters as they struggle.
For the majority of the sequence sound, there is low and wistful cello that runs between sections of the bamboo forest fight sequence. It’s directed completely to make you feel a certain thing: happiness, fear, serenity, and nature. The importance of music in Taoist ceremony is demonstrated by revealing how central beliefs are reflected through elements of music such as harmony, instrumentation and rhythm. Taoists believe that music is a way to speak to the gods, to inspire religious followers and to achieve inner harmony, bringing the listener or participant closer to Tao.
Tao is the path to enlightenment, the goal of all followers of the Taoist faith. We can see these principles applied to the bamboo forest scene. The character of Li Mu Bai is seeking for Jen Yu to come to harmony with herself, to enlightenment. By examining the role of music in Taoist rituals, it is evident that instrumentation and vocalization play central roles. The structure of the event has been shown to symbolize the balance ideal of Taoism. In the balanced philosophy of Taoism without music there would only be silence, solitary, alone and unbalanced.
Ultimately, Lee’s final product portrays a diverse convention from the past martial arts films. He chose a powerful novel that took in respect his and his ancestors background of spirituality and religious ideals. And he flourished it into a classical Chinese cinema film that associated the teachings of the Taoist and Buddhist. The film defies the laws of logic and reality, but despite all the effort placed on the aesthetic principles, the flawless elements of mise-en-scene bought it all together.