‘Hero’ Movie Review

February 23, 2022

What is an ideal worth striving for? To the Chinese nation, it is peace. Peace which promotes the arts of calligraphy and the game of chess. It is this objective of civil administration of society, wherein all people’s focus is on achieving the same common objective: more availability for fulfilling their artful desires in life.


This is accomplished when there is enough rice, and when there is enough rest, away from the need of swordsmanship for war.


The paradox of human civilized life is that its ends can be towards atavistic and harmful expressions. And this is what is surmised by the assassins in the film, working to murder the King of Qin. It is through their vendetta, so monomaniacally obsessed to achieve their vision of justice, that helps progress, cinematically, the concept of heavenly compassion.


What is unmistakable in the cinematic imagery is the attunement of these spirits with their outstanding Nature of what is principally a war-like instrument: the sword. We see this through the typified Chinese cinematic gestures of – paraphrasing Joseph Needham -“natural magic” – the ability for the characters to float, endowed with this permission by the the Natural world and its harmonious elements. Indeed, this is the tension between man and Nature – that his cosmic aim is to make peace, to be one with the world, and yet there is constant friction within the gated walls. Between warring states. But why?


Is it for brutalistic glory? Often times, yes. That the concept of honor is a violent one in antiquity; that it requires a grandiose display of physical power, is one that slowly expires as Nature heals the evanescent living of human life which strives for violent eternal remembrance as opposed to the nobler means of the permanent motion of human high culture. That is, the extension of human life towards the heights is not one accomplished through violent machinations, but through harmonious vibrations between human bodies seeking true goodness.


And all of this is contained within the terse Hero epic. Even the King is humanized with his plain objective: “Our Land.” It is in the recognition that the motivation to annihilate another human life is undignified. It is best for a soul to render judgment unto Nature; that a society ordered toward submission to the Natural way promotes the life of all. And yet, can this submission be attained through human politics? Are politics necessarily violent, or is its aim to promote a just ordering or organizing of humanity? Such that, when injustice creates imbalances in the human order, does the political will seek to preserve it or to correct it?


This is the paradox of the Tao. That man’s anthropocentric realism with the fluctuations of human passions form patterns of obsession which can be harmful to others. That it is best to recede from anger rather than to focus it upon a violent objective which has no certainty in achieving more harmony in Nature. This is the conclusive judgment of one of the assassins, Broken Sword, who would rather suffer death than to inflict it, toward no certain goal other than a gratifying achievement in fulfilling his self-centered aims. It is from his turn away from such intentions which is the defining feat of being humane. It is in his recognition, his mindful realization, that his will does not accomplish the highest purpose of securing peace for all.


The cinematic images and the florid colors give us the sensual impression of human memory, but further, our necessary integration of our memory with the Natural world and its lively colors – a true expression of the beauty of harmony. This is canonically the affirmation of the Chinese Moral World Order, which does not seek to disrupt Nature through commanding its action; indeed, it affirms its self-reliant elegance; for where can we recollect blue without it imposing itself upon us each waking breath? Is a human life void of Sky a human life at all?


And such is the determination of mankind: to be peaceful or war-like? Heraclitus has remarked if it is human to be querulous? Or do quarrels occur simply because misgivings are formed from base ignorance of Nature? As he writes in his Fragments (91) (Translated by Brooks Haxton):


Since mindfulness, of all things,

Is the ground of being,

To speak one’s true mind,

And to keep things known

In common, serves all being…


To obsess over speaking one’s true mind implies a truthful nature to mind which is forming the speech. Such a devotion is one so far removed from delusions of grandeur which propels human history toward violent conflict, until the die has been cast and people become enlightened about the Natural World and their bodies integration within it. As Lao Tzu writes in Tao Te Jing (13) (translated by Stephen Addiss & Stanley Lombardo):


Respect the world as your self:

            The world can be your lodging

Love the world as your self:

            The world can be your trust




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