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Raise the Red Lantern depicts a conflict between the representatives of the same gender within the society of gender inequality. This movie raises questions about China’s deep-rooted federalism society and socially acceptable polygamy system. However, it was very interesting that a husband of four mistress’ face is never clearly showed up, not even one single close up shots. Although the spouse’s role is incredibly important in this movie, all we could see is his figure from long shots and his voice.

I personally think director’s intension for this particular issue is the depiction of the man as a “highest power”, as, for instance, in the 19th century China, seeing godlike emperor’s face was a taboo, i. e. the access to the ruler’s personality was strictly limited. Although women’s jealousy, craftiness, and tragedy are main themes of this movie, I would like to emphasize their cause, which is a man. Husband has four different wives, and, according to tradition in this family, he chooses whom to spend night with every day.

Every morning four mistresses need to come out in front of their gate and wait for red lantern to be putted among four gates. If red lantern is placed in one particular gate, the owner of this room is supposed to serve the man during the day. The chosen mistress gets incredible power for this period: she gets foot massage, is allowed to pick dishes for her meals, and her room is decorated with red lanterns. For those reasons, quite war of getting red lantern in front of their gate between four mistresses never stops.

Although the house is big, it seems narrow and close for the four wives because everyone in the house is enemy for them. However there is a place, a roof of the house, which brings freedom for these women. The roof appears when the Third mistress, Meishan, sings to interrupt the date between the Fourth mistress, Songlian, and the master. Yet, this place appears many times when Meishan sings, so this narrow space is a symbol of self-expression and relative freedom.

Although Meishan seems like a negative character at first, she is really one of victims under polygamy system. Before her marriage, she was a singer, so her behavior in the roof can be explained as the excurse into her careless and happy past. The roof also appears when Feipu, son of the First wife, plays flute. Feipu is usually not home because he is staying at a different place. However, whenever he is at home, he goes to the roof and plays flute. This shows that the roof is the only place where he could belong to himself without anybody’s attention or inspection.

Furthermore, the roof of the house is a favorite place for Songlian. Songlian first went up to the roof to stop Meishan’s singing but ever since then, she goes up many times. Whenever she is alone, she goes upstairs, seeking solitude, so this place is also a symbol of the oppressed self, which, however, desires expression. When Songlian finds a small room in the roof, she tries to find some more information about its history, but nobody wishes to discuss it. Thus, there are many secrets in the house that Songlian does not know about.

However on top of the roof she sees Meishan singing and Feipu playing flute, many things that she could not see in the house. This symbolize Songlian’s freedom because she usually lack her self in her room but whenever she goes to the top of the roof, gives opportunity for her to interact with people. The overall mood of Raise the Red Lantern is sad, but I personally like it because of its realism in depicting the war of the inferior gender group, in which women, instead of finding a compromise and establishing unity, are consumed by the conflicts with one another.

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