“The Assassin” showed last night at the Wexner Center for the Arts, an encapsulating film of the wuxia genre by renowned director Hou Hsiao-Hsien.
Based in ninth-century China, the film stars Taiwanese actress Qi Shu as Nie Yinniang, the graceful, yet deadly, assassin who is tasked with killing a government official to whom she was formerly betrothed, a mission she was assigned to by her master after failing to kill a man because he was with his son.
The opening scenes in stunning black and white show just how skilled Yinniang is as she expertly cuts down a man, displaying her precision. The rest of the film is colorful, and portrays Yinniang in a slightly warmer light. It is made evident that the assassin is not inherently violent and gets no enjoyment out of carrying out her tasks, but rather was forced into the assassin life when she was just a young child.
Although the plot may be difficult to follow, the beautiful aesthetic of the film makes up for it. The film is a true work of art, one that landed Hsiao-Hsien with the award for best director at the Cannes Film Festival.
Dave Filipi, director of film and video at the Wexner, said that “The Assassin” is far from being the first of Hsiao-Hsien’s works featured at the Wex. A full retrospective of his work was offered in 2000 and some of his more recent films, including “Millennium Mambo” and a restored version of “City of Sadness,” were shown in 2004 and 2009, respectively.
“He’s one of the world’s greatest directors and we try to show his work whenever we can,” Filipi said.
“The Assassin” will offer an experience for movie-goers that is different from most modern films. The focus is not on action, plot or special effects, but rather the artistry of each individual scene.
“The Assassin” will have two more showings at the Wexner: Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets for students are a discounted $6.