Movie of the Day – Jade Warrior
November 10, 2011 Leave a comment
If there was anything special that I got out of my time spent abroad in other countries, besides friends and some stories, is that I was able to experience world cinema in actual foreign countries. So while I was in Finland visiting a friend, I was watching some television and came across a trailer for a rather interesting movie. Jadesoturi, was a mix of Chinese wuxia and a Finnish Kalevala mythology. I had to have the latter explained to me as I don’t even know what Kalevala is and the only words I knew at the time were phrases to pick up women and order another beer. Both were useful in their own rights, but from a movie fan perspective, I had to know more about this movie. So I was excited that it was playing at the local theater in Turku, Finland, but my American mind didn’t comprehend that the foreign language film in Finnish and Chinese were only going to be subtitled in Finnish, so no luck there. I did finally get a chance to watch this movie 3 years later and well, it was worth it.
nspired by a well-known Finnish epic called The Kalevala, the story opens with a down-on-his luck hardware merchant who gets dumped by his girlfriend. She tries to dispose of his collection of Asian artifacts at an antique dealer, but this sets off a mythical series of events that turns the merchant into a warrior prince, fated to battle a demon in icy northern Finland, responsible for enslaving all of humankind. The prince is abetted — and then ultimately betrayed — by a two-faced female warrior who has captured his heart and thus carries his greatest weakness in her hands. The battle involves enchanted boxes, spectacular swordfights, and supernatural events that come together — simultaneously — in an isolated cabin on the outskirts of Helsinki and in the rural Chinese mountains. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi
The film is a bit hard to follow, even with the subtitles which aren’t the most accurate and contain more particular references to Finnish lore than I care to look up. So the feeling of being lost when watching the movie is prevalent, but it doesn’t really detract from the movie. Visually this is stunning and if you are fan of the wuxia genre (martial art adventure stories) this will be a real treat. This is a Finnish film, which brings a unique style on its own to a Chinese style combat. The fights are beautiful and flowing, almost like watching a flower bloom, but it is captivating and unique that you forget at times you are watching a Finnish film. That is a good compliment to a director when you are able to incorporate a new genre into your film making style.
So while the action and wire work is gorgeous to watch, the story, once you get past the language barrier, is rather interesting. Finnish and Chinese mythology share some commonalities, mainly in the way the stories both involve the warriors journey and their quest to defeat a demon. While we can find that in numerous cultures, both sides seem to mesh well together. You will find it a familiar tale, but the thing that makes this special is that the film is something of a jewel for Finland. Their cinema has always consisted of drama and comedy films, with a few war pictures thrown in for good measure. Jade Warrior is a crowning achievement in not only genre mixing, but incorporating Finnish mythology into an action film, which is rare for their country.
If I didn’t preface this post with the knowledge that Jade Warrior is a Finnish-Chinese film, you might have just taken it as the latest wire-fu flick from China. It’s a natural assumption to think that any movie involving sword, Asians and kung-fu would be a Chinese flick, but to take a genre and put a slight spin on it without losing the impact that the medium has is incredible. I certainly would have thought this was a new Zhang Yimou film, but I am surprised by the skill and story telling that director Antti-Jussi Annila put into this film. Sure the release of this movie was small and it didn’t catch a lot of love stateside, but if you look in unusual places, you will find yourself a jewel of a film. While not a perfect film, Jade Warrior does have some flaws with the slow pace and confusing story line, but I can’t fault it for that since I am not familiar with the subject matter at hand. This shouldn’t diminish your enjoyment as Jade Warrior is thankfully on Netflix so take a look at a rather beautiful and unique film.