THE PALACE/ 宫锁沉香/Gōng suǒ chénxiāng – 2013 Chinese Film

BY RUBY GEGE WHO IS HAVING HER EXAMS THIS MONTH BUT CAN’T SEEM TO SHAKE OFF HER OBSESSIONS WITH HISTORICAL CHINESE DRAMAS AND MOVIES. ARGH!!!

 The dramatic poster, which I love!

the dramatic poster, which I love!

The_Palace_Chinese_Filmthe sweet poster, which I equally love as well!

REVIEW: 4 DURIANS OUT OF 5 (Because it made me believed in love, for like… 10 minutes)

PLOT SUMMARY

The Palace is essentially a love story set during the reign of Kangxi Emperor of Qing Dynasty between the 13th Prince Yinxiang and a palace maid by the name of Chen Xiang. If you guys remember, quite a number of dramas was based during this era ie Bu Bu Jingxin, Gong I and also Gong II. But I can definitely understand why drama writers seem to be super obsessed with the era of Kangxi Emperor. He sired many princes who would fight and compete for the throne. In the movies and dramas, they always make the princes handsome and extremely charming. Amongst the instrumental princes who contended for the throne was the 4th Prince, the 8th Prince and the 14th Prince. Other princes who didn’t really want to be emperors had to choose sides in order to survive the game.

Liu Li and Chen Xiang
Liu Li and Chen Xiang

This film, however, doesn’t really revolve around the political crisis. It did touch a little, but yeah, only very little. It is mainly about Chen Xiang (Zhou Dongyu), an innocent palace maid who had been best friends with Liu Li (Zhao Li Ying), a vivacious naughty maid as well. As they grew up, the palace maids dreamed of entering the palace ranks by being taken as wives or concubines by the princes. Therefore, they often bribed the eunuchs to provide them information about the location of the princes so that they could meet them ‘coincidentally’ and tried to capture their hearts. Liu Li was one of the more ambitious girls amongst the lot. One night, she threw herself at the 9th Prince, hoping to be accepted by his wife. Little did she know that the 9th Prince was only using her and had no intention to do as such.

lifPkK90Xk3QAt the same time, Liu Li asked Chen Xiang to replace her for a duty or something. Chen Xiang, who covered her face with a handkerchief (cause that’s how the ancient ladies did it, people, to appear more… I don’t know, mysteriously pretty?), had a sweet encountered with the 13th Prince(Chen Xiao). They caught butterflies together in the middle of the night, had some sweet chit-chatting and generally fell in love with each other ever since. However, the 13th Prince had no idea what Chen Xiang looked like and had a clue only in the form of the handkerchief she dropped. A few days later,  a manhunt for that ‘mysterious girl’ was conducted. Liu Li came forward and claimed that she was the one as the handkerchief that Chen Xiang used to cover her face was actually hers.

14386300_049007
Liu Li and the 13th Prince. Chen Xiang was standing behind Liu Li, becoming her personal maid

Thus, the role reversed and the ambitious Liu Li finally got what she wanted. She was trained to become the 13th Prince’s wife and won his affections overnight. Which still baffled me. I mean, even if the ‘mysterious girl’ covered half her face, couldn’t the 13th Prince tell that their facial symmetries were COMPLETELY different? Chen Xiang’s eyes were small and pretty, Liu Li’s eyes were round and bright. But then, what are fictional historical films without the baffling illogical twists… I’ve somehow grown accustomed to expecting no explanation at all arising from unreasonable plots.

Thus, Chen Xiang accepted her fate of the lost opportunity to marry the 13th Prince, whom she began to fall in love with. She became Liu Li’s maid. However, the 13th Prince and her started to get close as the Prince was always bothering her for help in finding out Liu Li’s likes and dislikes. For such purpose, he cooked for Chen Xiang and took her horse-riding. Tell me, people, who wouldn’t fall in love with a man like that?!! If it was me… damn it, I would just scream to the Prince and confessed who I really was.

Misfortune struck the 13th Prince due to his failed rebellion against his Emperor father to save the 4th Prince, whom he admired. He ended up blind and was sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life, to be visited by no one and to live his remaining days in isolation. His soon-to-be wife, Liu Li abandoned him and joined the 9th Prince household – whom she was having a love affair with – as his concubine. Literally, at this time, 13th Prince had no one to rely on. Blind and alone, his world was full of darkness and misery (over-dramatic alert! )

20130807-a6ae21a06d2cc429The only person who cared for him was Chen Xiang. Thus, she tried everything to get into that guarded section of the palace he was locked in. She sought the help of Liu Li, who forced her to walk on burning coals (which she did in the name of love). Upon meeting the Prince, she was again mistaken for Liu Li. I literally banged my head in frustration – you stupid bastard, not again! But then, who could blame the Prince? He barely knew his former fiancee. He barely talked to her yet he fell for her already. Therefore, when a young lady came to visit him in his chamber, he instantly thought that was Liu Li whom he had been waiting for. Chen Xiang did not deny it. Maybe because she wanted to spare him the misery of being abandoned by the woman he loved. To gain continuous access to the Prince’s chamber, Chen Xiang became an experimental guinea pig to the royal physician. She suffered and suffered, all due to her devotion to the 13th Prince, who did not even know who she was. She gave himself to him, she comforted him and became his only hope to live.

201308170309329cb38It was so sweet I almost cried. It would be perfect if only the Prince realized that the lady was actually Chen Xiang and not Liu Li.

As the 4th Prince ascended the throne, the 13th Prince was freed. By that time, he had heard about Liu Li’s affair with the 9th Prince and told Chen Xiang (whom he still thought as Liu Li) to leave him as he supposedly stopped loving her. Chen Xiang did exactly that, thinking that it was over between them.

I don’t fucking get it, Chen Xiang. Just tell him the fucking truth. What is with all this super innocent suffering-loving passive heroines in ancient China? Why do they love this kind of characters so much?

Of course, in the end, the 13th Prince finally learned the truth. Liu Li passed away and Chen Xiang reunited with her lover. The film ended sweetly, like a caramel candy that melts in your mouth.

REVIEW:

I have to be completely honest with you. Despite the grand scale of the film – it being a luscious costume piece – the story is really not about an epic political commentary or even about two different women living in the period of Qing Dynasty. It is, simply, a love story. A simple sweet one, I must say. Our main two characters are simple-minded people who believed in love and naive at hearts. What made the film a little better than your usual romantic piece are the complex supporting characters, especially Liu Li.

The first thing that I love is the innocence of the love story between the 13th Prince and Chen Xiang.

Img378499290You can’t help but to go… awwww. Awwwww. *Cries* and then, awwwww again. The 13th Prince initiated a friendship with Chen Xiang, whom he thought was instrumental in helping him develop a connection with his future wife. Chen Xiang, already in love with him, asked nothing in return. Her feelings for the Prince was pure and selfless. When they were together, you cannot help but to smile. When you see Chen Xiang suffering for the Prince’s sake, you can’t help but to cry along with her. It is just too…. sweet. Arghhhhh!!!!!!!

714236f3jw1e6t97idjofj218g0t0k40The second thing I love is, of course, Liu Li.

20130720091927492She is essentially an evil ungrateful bitch in this film. From a palace maid, she evolved into a prince’s fiancee and a royal concubine. Without her, the film would inevitably walk the dull path. Unlike Chen Xiang who was all innocent and passive, Liu Li was aware of her desires. If she saw an opportunity, she took it. If there was anything she desired, she grabbed it. One misgiving I have about the film was how it displayed an unbalanced portrayal of two types of women in that era. Somehow, I feel that the film stereotypes women who are aggressive as manipulative and cruel whilst the soft–spoken women are kindhearted and sincere.

The third thing I love is the costume, the set designs – basically everything visual in this film. The costumes are crazily detailed and so so so pretty!!!!!! Somehow, the great regal visuals in the film elevated it to more than just a romance film – it gave the film its epic kick!

The fourth thing is undoubtedly….. the 13th Prince.

urlkkkmOMG, each time he appears on the screen, I freaking blush! How can he be so cute and charming and handsome and charismatic at the same time?!!! OMG!! HIS SMILE IS TO DIE FOR!! *swoon* This is not healthy, this is not healthy. Okay, I don’t give a damn. The actor who played him, Chen Xiao is 20 times more good looking in modern attires. He is now officially my favourite mainland actor, second only to Liu Ye.

Him in real life. OMG, how can someone be so good-looking?
Him in real life. OMG, how can someone be so good-looking?

The film is not a great epic historical piece, that’s for sure. However, it is a good entertaining film that would be able to touch your heart in certain scenes. It has a sweet love story as its focal point and the sumptuous designs to accessorize the whole film. Trust me, it will make you delusional and started fantasizing about finding a prince of your own, which will never happen. So, that kind of sucks. But who cares when you have films like this to satisfy your never-ending desires? Hahaha

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One thought on “THE PALACE/ 宫锁沉香/Gōng suǒ chénxiāng – 2013 Chinese Film

  1. I love the movie!!! by the way, just wondering, do you know the name of the song that was played during Liu Li’s death? I think it is Ren Mian Tao Hua but I cant find the singer who sang the exact same version as in the movie.

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