Curse of The Golden Flower is roughly adapted from Thunderstorm, one of the best known works by writer Cao Yu. But the screen version doesn't stay too faithful to the original. The story is set in an undefined period of the Tang Dynasty, about a thousand years ago. And there are several pivotal factors within the plot.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is the foremost factor. A royal pharmacy was re-created according to careful research. And pharmacists were brought in from Tong Ren Tang, a renowned maker of herbal remedies for over 300 years. The emperor, played by Chow Yun-fat, is quite enthralled with the process of crushing and grinding herbs.
Zhang said:"If the emperor behaves too well, he'll be ignored by the audience. As for his personality: Well, he'd love to stay in the royal pharmacy all the time. He's a drug freak. That's how his character is developed and expanded upon. He's just so into the drug."
His addiction has an affect on all the main characters, and serves to reflect the culture as a whole.
People will see the drug become a symbol, around which conflict is revealed.
The film's title gives a clear hint at the chosen color palette. Gold is the tone throughout the picture.
Zhang said:"Gold is the color of the emperor. So we adopt it in the costume designs."
The finery showcases the luxury and elegance of the royal court. Dragon patterns are used on the robes, with pearls and diamonds all around. Although fabulous, it's difficult for the emperor to dress himself, as his outfit weighs tens of kilograms.
And the empress' apparel is little different. There is no way to put it on without help.
The armor is another triumph in costume design. The suits and helmets made for Jay Chow, who plays the prince, are gold-plated.
Jay Chow said:"They're so heavy. Sometimes I use lighter ones as an alternative, which allow me to perform with ease. But for better visual effect, I have to wear the real ones sometimes. It's uncomfortable while walking and running, but I want to look perfect on the screen."
It seems the director has found the application of color a way of replacing emotional expression. The gold creates a radiant, lustrous atmosphere.
Sung by Jay Chow himself, the theme song Ju Hua Tai, a.k.a. Golden Flowerbed refers to another key factor: The Chrysanthemum. Talking about the flower, Zhang Yimou revealed his approach.
Zhang said:"I thought to myself: The flowers and swords should be taken from China. And the classic image of the chrysanthemum can be traced way back. I drew inspiration from the golden flower and put it in my picture."
Chrysanthemum patterns and ornaments can be seen throughout the film, in the furnishings and costumes.
Zhang said:"All these chrysanthemums are not just for a facade of gaiety. It's not that simple. We use them for expression of characters' emotions."
Zhang said:"Troops are deployed across Chang'an, a city of golden flowers. You can't find anything wrong at first look, but think twice, it actually means rebellion."
Actress Gong Li said:"The Golden flower is a symbol of rebellion. It's a main archetype in the film."
The empress favors the flower as well, in her hair, on her robe, even in embroideries. As the filmmaker suggests, the flower reveals her determination to resist her husband's rule. That results in large-scale battle, in a sea of blooming chrysanthemums.
Zhang said:"To be brief, the symbol of the golden flower can not be overshadowed by other elements."
The drug, the flower and the color gold, these are some of the key factors. But they can't summarize the whole picture. To know more about the mysterious city, people'll have to wait for the premiere.
(CCTV December 13, 2006)