The movie is a biopic of legendary Chinese social philosopher Kong Qiu (Chow Yun Fat) otherwise known as Confucius (551 – 479 BCE). It focused on Confucius’ life between the ages of fifty one to seventy three years old during the waning of Spring and Autumn Period (770 – 476 BCE). This was the age of the feudal system era where States controlled by powerful clans waged countless wars against smaller and weaker States. One such powerful State was the State of Lu reigned by Lord Lu Jun (Yao Lu). Kong Qiu was born in the State of Lu where Lord Lu Jun ruled in the name only as the real power had devolved to the three most powerful local noble clans.
Kong Qiu lived with his wife, Qi GuanShi (Zhang KaiLi), and their two children in a manor where he also taught his philosophical principles to seventy two disciples. They had a son, Kong Li (Qiao ZhenYu), and a daughter, Kong Rao (Chen Rui). Kong Li oversaw and maintained orders for all his father’s disciples. Kong Qiu was the son of a famous State of Lu’s warrior and he took his first political office as a Mayor of Chongdu at the age of fifty one years old. He was favored by Lord Lu Jun for his intelligence and charisma. Advocating his political idea that a State should be governed with courtesy and morality resulted in Kong Qiu’s district with low crime rates. Thus, the people in his district were content. Believing the State of Lu would prosper under Kong Qiu’s civilized principles, Lord Lu Jun appointed him to fill the vacant position of Minister of Law which was previously held by recently deceased Duke Ji Yiru. At the same time, Lord Lu Jun intended to regain his power from the three controlling noble clans in State of Lu.
Among many of Kong Qiu’s teachings was the fundamental of opportunity of every person to become morally upright. This particular teaching at the time deviated from local traditions. One in particular local tradition was the burial of living servants and slaves with their master during funeral ceremony. Kong Qiu sheltered a runaway slave named Qi SiGong (Liu FengChao) from the House of Duke Ji Yiru Clan who refused to be buried with his late master. By disregarding the tradition, Kong Qiu unwittingly earned the enmity of General GongShan Niu (Zhang XingZhe), the Commander in Chief, and Duke Ji Yiru’s son, Prime Minister Ji SunSi (Chen JianBin).
The efficacy in restoring prestige and authority of Lord Lu Jun was the result of Kong Qiu’s diplomatic and tactical brilliances. Kong Qiu managed to regain control over three cities the State of Lu lost in battle to the State of Qi three decades earlier without bloodshed during a so-called alliance summit. Kong Qiu, Lord Lu Jun and their envoys were surrounded by thousands of State of Qi’s soldiers when Kong Qiu demanded the return of State of Lu’s cities a part of the peace resolution. Furthermore, Kong Qiu was promised five hundred chariots by Prime Minister Ji SunSi for Lord Lu Jun’s protection. But they never did arrive at the summit. With only Kong Qiu’s seventy two disciples and dozens of horses on the other side of the hills, their tumult gave a grand illusion of thousands of State of Lu’s soldiers ready for battle. Refusing to go all out war, Lord Jing ChuJiu (Ma JingWu) who was the ruler of State of Qi agreed with Kong Qiu’s term and demand of alliance resolution.
Kong Qiu’s next effort to curb the ambitions of the three noble clans and to bring them under Lord Lu Jun’s dominion was to demolish their tall fortress walls. The effort appeared to succeed in addition with Kong Qiu successfully averted military revolt by General GongShan Niu. However, the State of Lu’s Court plagued by opposing three noble clans and they were bribed by the ruler of State of Qi to turn against Kong Qiu. He was demoted from his post and Kong Qiu was exiled. At the age of fifty five years old, Kong Qiu regretfully left his family and began to wander to neighboring States to teach his philosophical wisdoms. His loyal disciples led by Yan Hui (Ren Quan) insisted to join Kong Zi in his travels while in exile.
Their path took them to State of Wei whose weak ruler, Lord Chu (Bi YanJun), hoped to exploit Kong Qiu as their military adviser and a mentor to the crown prince. The ruler of State of Wei was heavily influenced by his seductive concubine, NanZi (Zhou Xun). She alluringly attempted to persuade Kong Qiu to accept the ruler of State of Wei’s offers. But sensing internal political conflict within the State of Wei’s Court, Kong Qiu promptly ordered his disciples to resume their wanderings to avoid unwanted confrontation.
For fourteen years, Kong Qiu and his loyal disciples roamed from States to States. Meanwhile, back in Kong Qiu’s homeland, the State of Lu was in the verge of being invaded by the State of Qi. The dying Prime Minister Ji SunSi finally realized that he made a mistake for banishing Kong Qiu. He sent his son, Ji SunFei (Lu Yi), to invite Kong Qiu back to the State of Lu to help defending against the invasion. Kong Qiu agreed to return but he had no more passion with the world of politics.
Quite simply the portrayal of Confucius is unlike the audience anticipated. The director, Hu Mei, chose Confucius biopic to be another unspectacular period drama war movie. It’s clearly the movie is not for everyone, it can be downright boring once it engaged the prolonged of Confucius’s wanderings on the latter half of the movie.
Despite the direction of the movie was produced, Confucius is still inspirational and entertaining to say the least. Put the contradiction perspective about Confucius aside, the character was chronologically developed by Chow Yun Fat’s performance. The Cleopatra-like cameo by Zhou Xun is underutilized in the movie and yet she still gave a magnetic performance. All in all, Confucius is not particularly brilliant period war drama movie but it’s an entertaining biopic drama.
Chow Yun Fat … Kong Qiu/Confucius
Zhou Xun … NanZi
Chen JianBin … Ji SunSi
Lu Yi … Ji SunFei
Ren Quan … Yan Hui
Yao Lu … Lu Jun
Zhang KaiLi … Qi GuanShi
Wang Ban … Shu SunWu
Liu FengChao … Qi SiGong
Kan JinMing … Zi Gong
Li WenBao … Zi Lu
Huang Jiao … Laozi
Chen Rui … Kong Rao
Qiao ZhenYu … Kong Li
Zhang XingZhe … General GongShan Niu
Ma JingWu … Lord Jing ChuJiu
Bi YanJun … Lord Chu
Chinese Title: 孔子
Director: Hu Mei
Screenplay: Hu Mei, Chan Khan, He YanJiang, Jiang QiTao
Producer: Han SanPing, Hu Mei
Director of Photography: Pau Tak Hai
Art Director: Lin Chao Xiang, Mao Huai Qing
Image Designer: Yee Chung Man
Composer: Zhao JiPing, Su Cong
Soundtrack: Faye Wong (Virtues of the Silent Orchid)
Filming Locations: Hebei Province
Release Date: January 28, 2010
Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
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