Skip to main content

BUTTERFLY LOVERS

China, 1953 (MIFF 1956, Programme 20)

Director: Sang Hu, Huang Sha

This beautiful and intriguing Chinese opera film is based on a seventh century Chinese legend. All the parts are played by women from the Shohsing Experimental Opera Theatre.

The playing is of a very high order: the formalised, mime &ndash: like movements, the fluttering fans, and the subtle manipulation of the long sleeves worn by the principal characters are redolent of an ageless culture, and the story is enacted in pleasant colour, against deliberately stylised backgrounds.

The music, with its hypnotic, sensuous dissonance played on primitive instruments (bamboo flutes, guitars, castenets) creates an exquisite novelty to untutored ears.

The story tells how Chu Ying-Tai, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant, disguises herself as a boy in order to attend the all-male university at Hangchow. She meets a young man, Liang Shan &ndash: Po, who is also on his way to the university, and the two swear to be “sworn brothers” during their years of study.

Although she has fallen in love with Shan &ndash: Po, Ying &ndash: Tai revels her secret only to the teacher's wide, and, when she received an urgent summons to return home to her father, she asks her to give Shan &ndash: Po a pendant as a token of betrothal.

When the young man later arrives at Ying &ndash: Tai's house to claim her as his bride, he is shocked when Ying &ndash: Tai tells him that her father has, in her absence, betrothed her to the local perfect's son.

Shan &ndash: Po departs broken &ndash: hearted, and, shortly before the time arranged for her wedding, Ying &ndash: Tai learns that he had dies of grief. She persuades her father to stop the wedding procession near Shan &ndash: Po's tomb, and when the tomb miraculously splits open during a sudden thunderstorm, Ying &ndash: Tai joyfully joins her lover in death.

As peace descends upon the scene, two beautiful butterflies are seen dancing together in the sun.

See also...

Underground Palace

The Emperors of the Ming Dynasty concealed treasures under each of their tombs, so effectively hidden, that only in 1958 was the first of these - that of the Emperor Wan-li - discovered. ... More »

Clockwork Lemon

Alf has worked as a compositor for 42 years with the one company. In the last seven of those years the industry, and Alf's job, have undergone tremendous changes. The film looks at the effects of the ... More »

LISSY

"The film opens with a Love on the Dole theme at the end of the 1920's and follows the life of a German working class girl into the Nazi era. Raised in the slums of Berlin, Lissy helps to support her ... More »

THE LAWYERS

This BBC documentary was filmed in various locations throughout England and Wales, and shows real barristers and solicitors in their chambers and offices and in the Inns of Court. There are no ... More »

Outline of Detergency

Water alone is not very good at wetting things. This film uses demonstrations and animated drawings to show in a simple way how detergent weakens the tension at the water surfaces. The basic ... More »

Call of the Mountains

The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling was established by the Government of India to encourage mountaineering amongst the youth of the country. This documentary revolves around one of ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director