With the premiere of The Promise (Wu Ji) in Beijing on Monday and the nationwide public screening that began Wednesday night, the film has garnered plenty of box-office buzz.
Chinese director Chen Kaige said he always had the market in mind, and has much confidence in the film's market prospects.
"The Promise, like Farewell My Concubine, is both a commercial production and an art-house production," he said.
At the premiere of the movie, Chen was reportedly fuming at a reporter who asked him how he would react if The Promise does not have a good box-office result.
The Promise has received a barrage of media coverage over the past year. The movie crew has also been leaking stories to the tabloids, and the film has made headlines in the entertainment pages of newspapers.
In May, a very high-profile screening of the movie's 11-minute trailer was held in Cannes. Western models dressed as ancient Chinese warriors lined the paths of an ancient castle, which provided the backdrop of the event.
At Cannes, the North American, English, Australian and South African rights were sold at US$35 million.
For a film with such high expectations and the highest budget among all Chinese films, it took the crew 1,090 days, travelling more than 10,000 kilometers, to make it.
There are four main roles in The Promise: a beautiful princess; a courageous slave; an ambitious, charismatic mighty general; and an evil and cunning duke. Each is overcome by vehement passions: greed, ambition, loyalty, revenge and the unremitting search for true love.
At the beginning of the film, the general meets a goddess who predicts that he will be defeated by fate. He will lose everything, including love.
The princess, who is also cursed in never finding true love, is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is spoiled by the King, whom she does not love at all. Once in a public gathering, she seduces the general to kill the King, and she falls in love with the general.
The duke, determined to make the princess heartbroken, brings the general to the royal tribunal. At the tribunal, the slave admits that it is him, not the general, who has killed the King, expecting that by revealing the truth, the general's life will be saved. But unexpectedly, this humiliates the general, whose love for the princess is based on his claimed heroic act.
The former English title of the film was Master of the Crimson Armour because the general wears a magic crimson armour.
Chen's signatory work was Farewell My Concubine (Ba Wang Bie Ji), which won the best film award in Cannes in 1993 and was nominated for the Oscar's best foreign film award.
Farewell established Chen's status as one of the most important film directors in China.
However, many of his works, including Life on a String (Bian Zou Bian Chang, 1991), Temptress Moon (Feng Yue, 1996), The Assassin (Ci Qin, 1999), and Together (He Ni Zai Yi Qi, 2002), came up as box-office failures.
Chen's private life has been as fascinating as his life as a film director. His first wife was Hong Huang, the daughter of Zhang Hanzhi, who once served as late Chairman Mao Zedong's translator.
After his divorce with Hong, he cohabited with Ni Ping in the early 1990s, the most famous woman television hostess in China at that time.
In 1996, he met actress Chen Hong while shooting Temptress Moon. The two soon fell in love and got married.
Chen is the producer of The Promise. She also plays the part of the goddess.
(China Daily December 16, 2005)