Sunday, December 11, 2011

Honourable Mention: the Sorcerer and the White Snake

The Sorcerer and the White Snake is a 2011 film by Tony Ching Siu-Tung that works on the premise that the technology now exists to put a lot of mythological and magical elements into a film that were impossible in the past. It doesn’t lead to a realistic looking film, per-se, but the look of the film works well in its unreality.

The main film concerns the white snake (Eva Huang), a snake demon called Susu. She and her sister green snake (Charlene Choi), who is named Qingqing, see a group of men picking herbs on a mountainside. Her sister decides to scare one of the men, Xu Xian (Raymond Lam), manifesting as a snake and making him fall from the mountain into a lake. There he would have drowned but white snake takes human form and dives in after him.

Susu the white snake
As she saves him she kisses him and passes some of her life essence into him, thus the two merge life essence and fall in love. When she later finds him they agree to marry but the local Buddhist Abbott, Fahai (Jet Li), captures demons and traps them so that they might meditate on their evil ways. He recognises Susu for what she is but also recognises that she has acted benevolently so far. He gives her one chance to leave the mortal realm. Of course she and Xu Xian are in love and she doesn’t leave, causing a tragic chain of events to follow.

bitten by a bat demon
That is not what this honourable mention is for, however. During the film we see a few demon hunts and the first to mention is the hunt for a bat demon. The bat demon attacks folks and bites their necks, drinking their blood – sound familiar? Fahai and his pupil Neng Ren (Wen Zhang) track the demon to a festival. Unfortunately Neng Ren’s demon detecting compass seems to be playing up, mainly because he makes a new friend in the form of Qingqing.

fighting bat demons
Eventually, however, he tracks the demon to a boat. He leaps atop it and fights some female bat demons who transform into flocks of bats. He defeats those but is captured by the main demon (who is in a man-bat kind of form). The bat demon bites Neng Ren. Fahai comes to his rescue and defeats the bat demon, capturing it as they fall into a chasm of fire (in another realm presumably).

Neng Ren changes
Unfortunately Neng Ren has been poisoned and, when Fahai gets him back to the temple, it is feared that he will die. His fate is worse than that. He starts transforming into a bat demon himself – growing fangs and long ears, his hands turning into one with three digits and large claws and, eventually sprouting wings. Worse, having run away and contemplated suicide, Qingqing tricks him into trying to bite him, eating meat and drinking blood – stripping away his monkhood.

fox spirits draining life
The bat demon was very vampire, with the bat-form, the blood drinking and the ability to mortals into its own kind. The other mentionable moment was when Fahai hunts down the demons plaguing a town. They are fox-spirits and these are a traditional Chinese myth form that most definitely often crosses into vampire territory (or vice-versa, to be fair). In this case, when in human form the foxes take on female form and suck the life force out of their victims.

I rather enjoyed the Sorcerer and the White Snake, it was a doomed love story but had a marvellous mythical landscape in which to play. The imdb page is here.

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