We are SOOO excited for our 2021 Halloween Party at the end of this month! This party is inspired by 徐克 Tsui Hark’s 1993 Hong Kong fantasy film, Green Snake 青蛇, our team's all time Halloween favorite. You can watch the full length movie with English subtitle here.
Based on the homonymous novel by 李碧华 Lilian Lee, which is a variation of the Chinese folktale “白蛇传 Madame White Snake”, Green Snake narrates the story of two snake sisters, who decided to take human form in order to fully understand human emotions and sufferings. Tsui Hark created a romantic fantasy allegory that manages to capture the complicated emotions of love and desire in less than ninety minutes. Starring 张曼玉 Maggie Cheung and 王祖贤 Joey Wang, known to be two of the ‘Four Flowers’ of Hong Kong cinema, the two snake sisters offer an alienating yet beautiful experience through their vivid costumes, exquisite beauty and lurid eroticism.
Green Snake Movie Posters (1993)
Styling and Makeup
As the original story was first adapted into a classic Chinese opera piece, the film was largely influenced by Peking Opera. The styling of the characters is based on dan 旦, a leading women's role in Kunqu 昆曲 (the oldest extant form of Chinese opera).
Bai Suzhen (White Snake) and Xiao Qing (Green Snake) embody classical feminine beauty through their flowing and sultry costume design and intricate coiffed hairpiece. With their hair in a bun, the iconic Tong Qian hairstyle (铜钱头) renders both an elegant yet ethereal image. Since performing for women was considered inappropriate in the ancient times, the female roles in operas were played by male actors. As men’s faces are known to be more angular, they applied extensive frontal makeup and a circle of frontal stickers and two big black sideburns around their head, creating a more feminine manner. Additionally, the film is interspersed with occasional theatrical singing dialogues which adds on to the mysterious, ghostly and enchanting charm of the characters.
Green Snake draws heavily on traditional Kun Opera Styling
In addition to the elaborate hairstyles, their faces are powdered and embellished with a touch of red lips and two thinly arched eyebrows tilted at the end. This ghostly yet delicate, sultry yet youthful appearance exemplifies the charming, feminine, and flirtatious nature of the two characters.
Sometimes hazy, sometimes dreamy, sometimes sad, the film forms a spectacle image of mysterious, romantic and eerie oriental aesthetic texture. The set in Green Snake softened the spatial atmosphere with poetic techniques, such as the fog, the white veils and moonlit doors. Tsui Hark’s use of lighting, color and smoke not only further reflects the fluctuation of emotions and desires of characters but enhances a vivid dream-like and imaginative atmosphere for erotic depictions of the film. Unlike today's costume films, Green Snake does not focus on the restoration of ancient scenes, but rather on the simplicity and cleanliness of the compositions. This unified visual language depicts what classical Chinese beauty is all about.
The red light symbolizes the fury of Fahai (left); The yellow-green light symbolizes Fahai's desire (right)
Photographed against the light, the pale shadow of bamboo on the chiffon, presents a natural, decorative atmosphere. The room is full of light and dark, bright and shadow, creating an ink painting-like scenery
The use of fog and "moon gate 月洞门" creates a sense of depth in space and magnifies the fantastical atmosphere
The foreplay of their intercourse, with orange tones rendering the erotic ambiguity, gives a dizzying visual effect, and captures the "eroticism" of the scene
Theme and symbols
Set in a world caught between fanciful myth and tragic reality, Green Snake draws on a mythical perspective in narrating a subtle and Zen-like story of lust. As the two sister snakes entice everyone that comes their way, the story of seduction touches upon the satirization of racial purity, sexual repression and religious violence.
Throughout the film, there were many sexual metaphors which depict ambigious connections between the figurative subject (fish, water, snake, etc.) and the abstract metaphor (sex, desire), giving the viewers some kind of erotic perception and association.
Fahai loses composure and sinks into lust
In the movie, Fahai, White Snake and Green Snake represent the struggle of different desires and eroticism. Fahai represents the power and suppression of lust by the guardians of morality. The White Snake represents the lost in lust, mistaking her for infatuation whereas the Green Snake represents desire itself.
In the eyes of Fahai and White Snake, there is always a difference between human and demon, but only Xiao Qing feels that they are all the same, that not only people who become human have feelings, but that a green snake, who has been cultivating for 500 years, also has them.
Scene from Green Snake