Una favola ambientata in una Cina mitologica (in inglese).
WuJi di Chen Kaige
A little girl scavenges among the corpses splayed on a great battlefield. An older boy of the nobility catches her in the act of stealing and offers her food in exchange for the promise to be his slave forever. The girl accepts only to attack the boy and flee with the food in search of her mother.
Running in the darkness, the girl encounters a beautiful Sorceress, who asks, “Do you so wish to become a princess whom men the world over will desire? There is a price, you will never experience true love or genuine happiness. Do you accept?” “I accept.” replies the girl.
Twenty years later, a Mighty General dons his bright crimson armour and prepares for a desperate battle that may result in his first defeat. Incredibly, a recently indentured Slave, due to his remarkable talent for “outrunning the wind”, plays a key role in the battle and the General is once again victorious. As his troops celebrate, word arrives that the Duke of the North has laid siege to the Palace and the Mighty General must rush to his aid.
The General orders the Slave to accompany him to the Imperial City, but the two become separated in a dark forest. Alone, the General is attacked by a mysterious and frighteningly swift Assassin dressed in a black cloak. The Slave arrives just in time to rescues the seriously wounded General who appears eerily familiar. Before taking off like a whirlwind, the Assassin stares long and hard at the Slave. Unable to move, the injured General instructs the Slave to put on his armour and rush to the Imperial City to save the King.”
On a windy rooftop stands the young girl who has indeed become a beautiful Princess, and is surrounded by soldiers admiring her beauty. The King betrays the Princess, offering her to the Duke of the North at his enemy’s request. When the Princess refuses to cooperate, the King draws his sword and threatens her. At this moment, the Slave arrives to witnesses the Princess in distress and instinctively drives his sword into the King’s chest without realizing who he is.
The Slave grabs the Princess and makes a spectacular escape only to be corned at the edge of a great waterfall by the pursuing Duke of the North. The Duke promises to let the Princess live if the General will throw himself over the falls. “Go on, you should live,” are the Slave’s last words to the Princess before jumping into the waterfall.
As word of the King’s violent death at the hands of the man in the crimson armour spreads, the Mighty General’s men believe it is their commander who has murdered the King and desert him in disgust. The Slave having survived the fall into the icy waters below the waterfall, remains loyal to the Mighty General who orders him to rescue the Princess from the Duke Of the North who has imprisoned her in a giant golden birdcage.
At the Duke’s palace, the Slave swoops down through the top of the gilded cage and gathers the startled Princess in his arms. The Mighty General also arrives to aid in the Princess’s escape and rides off with her over his saddle.
The Slave, however, is captured and after his interrogation the Duke learns the truth about the King’s rmurder. He orders the Assassin to kill the Slave so no other living soul will learn it was not the work of the General. The Assassin proves a poor match to the Slave, and the two men call a truce. Once freed, the Slave returns to his Master, the General, but realizes they have both fallen in love with the Princess. Unable to bear his own powerful emotions, the Slave leaves.
Once again, the Slave and the Assassin cross paths, but this time the Assassin takes the Slave on a journey into the past to show him their common origins as People of the Snowland, who can run faster than the wind. It becomes clear that the Assassin became the servant of the Duke of the North after the Duke slaughtered the entire tribe.
In the meantime, the Duke has managed to lure the General away from the Princess and imprison him. The Slave returns once more to his Master’s residence, only to find the Princess alone. She dispatches the Slave to find the General, and alone once again, the Duke’s men arrest her.
In the courtroom, the council of elders gathers to mete out the General’s sentence for the slaying of the King. The Princess and the Slave conspire to place blame for the murder on the Slave, however, during the trial the Princess realizes that their “story” is actually the truth and it becomes clear to her at last that it is the lowly Slave who risked his life to save hers. The deeper realization that she has loved the wrong man all along takes root as the court delivers all three to the Duke for execution.
A final showdown however awaits. The cunning General tricks the Duke into believing he wishes to serve him. Once released from his chains, the General engages in one last battle to save the Princess as well as the Slave. In the desperate struggle that ensues, the General, Duke and Slave are all mortally wounded.
With his dying breath, the Duke reveals himself to be the young boy whom the Princess broke her promise to so many years before, irrevocably destroying his faith in all others. As the Princess kneels over the dying General, he exhorts her to “go on, live your life.” The Slave, meanwhile, has retrieve the magic cloak of the Assassin, which revives his body. He takes the Princess in his arms and offers her a chance to choose a different destiny from the path she chose so long ago. They begin a journey into the future – or the past.