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The Emperor And The Assassin [DVD] [2002]

Price: £19.99
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The Emperor And The Assassin [DVD] [2002] + Farewell My Concubine  [All Region] [import]
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Product details

  • Actors: Li Gong, Fengyi Zhang, Zhou Sun, Xiaohe Lü, Zhiwen Wang
  • Directors: Kaige Chen
  • Writers: Kaige Chen, Peigong Wang
  • Producers: Kaige Chen, Bai Yu, Hiromitsu Furukawa, Philip Lee, Sanping Han
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 11 Feb 2002
  • Run Time: 155 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005R0CX
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,130 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

From the acclaimed director of Farewell, My Concubine comes THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN a visuallystunning epic, exploring the devastating price one country pays for peace and one man pays for power. Ying Zheng, the King of Qin, has one driving ambition: to unify China's seven kingdoms into one magnificent empire. Impressed by her lover's convictions, Lady Zhao (Gong Li) helps Ying Zheng concoct an assassination plot that would justify the conquest of Qin's most powerful enemy. When Ying Zheng's peaceful mission explodes into a brutal holocaust, a disillusioned Lady Zhao is forced to question her loyalty and her lover's destiny.


Set in 221 BC, The Emperor and the Assassin tells of Ying Zheng (Li Xuejian) and his obsession to unite seven Chinese kingdoms and become the first Emperor of China. The film mixes spectacular battle scenes with court intrigue, counterpointed by the King's complex relationship with the only woman he has truly loved, the Lady Zhao (Gong Li). From protocol-ridden palaces to wide open grasslands, this is a visually striking film, both beautiful and at the same time burdened with the horrors of the period.

Though this was the most expensive film ever made in China, director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) nevertheless retains a tight reign on character and psychology, recalling Kurosawa's Ran (1985) and Kagemusha (1980). The cast, particularly the two leads, are magnificent and both production design and score are first rate. While the unfolding story has similar appeal to Gladiator and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it can be as confusing and jarringly edited as the original (pre-director's cut) version of The Last Emperor (1987), and for the same reason--despite its 154 minutes--the film was cut by approximately 30 minutes prior to release. The full version may eventually reveal a masterpiece, though in its present form it is still an exceptionally powerful and compelling drama.

On the DVD: The Emperor and the Assassin’s original 1.85:1 image is transferred anamorphically, and while not up with the finest DVDs is still sharp and detailed. Strangely, despite the film being presented in DTS theatrically, the DVD offers mere three-channel Dolby Pro-Logic. No more than adequate, this is a serious disappointment when at least Dolby Digital 5.1 would be the accepted norm. The film can be watched with the original Mandarin soundtrack, with or without English subtitles, or dubbed into English. The extras are a 4:3 trailer and a serious, comprehensive commentary by director Chen Kaige. For anyone wanting to know how to mount such a large-scale production, there can be few better guides than Kaige.--Gary S. Dalkin

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By on 1 Mar 2002
Format: DVD
This film is not only a thought provoking historical epic on a grand scale, but also an extremely engaging political thriller.
It tells the story af a king in ancient China and his struggle to unite the country into one unified kingdom. As well as epic battles the film focuses on his personal relationships, with other rulers and members of his own household, and how they are worked out in true Macchiavellian style. If you have read and appreciated Sun Tzu's "the art of war" then watch this film.
In the finest traditions of "Ben Hur" it literally has a "cast of thousands," a welcome relief in the age of computer graphics. The (infrequent) battle scenes are truly awesome.
I do not think it would be too inappropriate to compare the story to the finest shakespeare plays in terms of subtlety and depth. Although it can at times be an effort to watch, it is a film which will stay with you long after it has ended. Your appreciation will grow as the complex and highly emotive story strands work themselves out in your brain hours and even days after you have watched it.
Highly recommended, the best film I have ever seen.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By hillbank68 TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Jan 2008
Format: DVD
This is a very absorbing and beautifully made film. It recreates China 2,200 years ago, in the time of the great Emperor Q'in (pron. 'Sheen'), who unified the country, was responsible for the linking of the Chinese defensive walls into the Great Wall of China and ordered the manufacture of the famous terracotta warriors to guard the gates of his tomb. A retired, remorseful assassin is persuaded to make an attempt on his life, which in the end he does. Everything about it visually is impressive, indeed breath-taking. The acting is good - lots of intense close-ups. However, if this does not sound a silly comment, it is a very 'Chinese' film in terms of character behaviour and motivation, and it is sometimes difficult for a Western perception to make out why a character thinks as she/he does or apparently changes viewpoint without any clear reason. I do not say this as a criticism - I had a similar reaction to watching traditional Chinese opera a while back, but that did not spoil my enjoyment of it. No-one should hesitate from watching this film if the subject appeals.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 15 July 2009
Format: DVD
Chen Kaige's The Emperor and the Assassin was one of the more expected Chinese flops of the 90s, coming so soon after the previous telling of the same tale, The Emperor's Shadow had failed to set the box-office alight and long before the stylised Hero would become a breakout international success. Indeed, the running joke at the time was that Chen Kaige thought The Emperor's Shadow only flopped because he didn't direct it.

China seems to have the same attitude to its First Emperor (Li Xuejian) as France does to Napoleon, alternating between admiration for the best of his achievements and condemnation for the methods he used to pursue them, and the film does at least embrace these contradictions in its portrait of an often childish but visionary Emperor wanting to end 550 years of hell and unite all of China under one benevolent ruler through increasingly ruthless means. Unlike previous versions of the story, here he even plans to manipulate a rival kingdom into sending an assassin (Jing Ke) to kill him to give him an excuse to invade, despatching his childhood love (Gong Li) as agent provocateur to arrange it only for her to find her sympathies shifting as the Emperor becomes increasingly merciless...

Less political than Shadow (though the film was heavily cut by the Chinese censors) and more down to Earth than Hero (the visual palette is much more subdued, favoring earth tones over vivid colors), despite the huge budget, Kaige doesn't really have a feel for spectacle and it's not exactly directed with a surfeit of imagination: the battle scenes are often more functional than inspired despite their scale while the massive sets are rarely employed to their best advantage.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 22 Nov 2005
Format: DVD
Directed by Chen Kaige (Farewell my concubine), this film shares much of its basic story with Hero in that it deals with the end of the Chinese Warring States period, the creation of a unified 'chinese' empire and a plot to kill the King of Qin, but the treatment is different in terms of cinematic style and the meaning behind the story.
The plot revolves around Ying Zheng (King of Qin) and his 'quest' to unify the other six kingdoms under his rule.
The film begins with the conquest of the Han and the main plot involves Ying Zhengs lover, Lady Zhao (played by Gong Li) going off on a clandestine mission to provide a pretext for him to attack another state Yan.
While she is away, there are complications at court and Ying Zheng, who is portrayed as a peace-loving unifier, gradually becomes (or is revealed to be) a ruthless tyrant.
The central question is whether personal desire for love and happiness can coincide with political ambition and a desire to save the world (or at least ancient China) through absolutist rule.
Or to put it another way, "What profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul" ?
The cast of characters includes some convincing supporting performances particularly from Fengyi Zhang as the assassin Jing Ke.
Jing Ke is a very interesting character and he and Ying Zheng Ke are portrayed as living opposite lives in many respects .
The courtly intrigues are handled with depth and they are driven by the characters rather than to satisfy the need for plot twists.
This is a film which will reveal more with each watching and I suspect there are other subtle clues that I will never get due to my lack of knowledge about the culture.
In terms of cinematography, it couldn't be less like Hero.
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