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Forever Enthralled

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Forever Enthralled is a visually stunning biographical drama directed by Chen Kaige, set amidst China's turbulent history in the 20th century. The film follows the life of star-crossed lovers Mei Lanfang (played by Leon Lai) and Meng Xiaodong (played by Ziyi Zhang), who meet and fall in love while practicing the art of Peking opera.

Mei Lanfang is an influential figure in Chinese culture, hailed as the "King of Peking Opera." Growing up in a family of Peking opera performers, Mei is fascinated by the art form from a young age. He spends his childhood and young adulthood studying and training to be an opera performer, honing his craft with a laser-focused dedication. His dedication pays off, as he soon becomes the most famous Peking opera performer of his time.

In contrast, Meng Xiaodong comes from a different background entirely. She grew up in a wealthy family, sheltered from the harsh realities of society. However, she feels unfulfilled and disillusioned with her life, and is eager to find purpose and direction. When she stumbles across a Peking opera performance featuring Mei Lanfang, she is instantly entranced by his talent and grace.

The two soon meet and sparks fly, despite the cultural barriers between them. Mei is already married and has children, while Meng's family disapproves of her association with the bohemian and unconventional Peking opera world. Nevertheless, the two become inseparable and embark on a passionate love affair.

Against this backdrop of personal drama, the film also depicts China's tumultuous journey throughout the 20th century. From the rise of the Communists to the Japanese occupation, the characters are constantly confronted with the dark realities of war and violence. The Peking opera community itself is also constantly under threat, with the government suppressing and censoring their performances.

As Mei's fame grows, he becomes a symbol of Chinese culture and national pride. However, he also faces intense pressure from the government to conform to their vision of what Peking opera should be. Mei must navigate this political minefield while also grappling with his own personal demons, such as the guilt he feels over his affair with Meng.

The film is visually stunning, with the Peking opera performances themselves serving as a centerpiece. The elaborate costumes, intricate makeup, and captivating music all contribute to the film's atmospheric portrayal of this art form. The lead actors also deliver strong performances, with Leon Lai bringing gravitas to his portrayal of Mei while Ziyi Zhang imbues Meng with a quiet strength and resolve.

Overall, Forever Enthralled is a poignant and beautifully crafted film that captures a pivotal moment in China's cultural history. It expertly weaves together personal drama, historical events, and artistic expression to create a truly mesmerizing viewing experience.

Forever Enthralled is a Drama, History movie released in 2008. It has a runtime of . Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.7..

Chen Kaige
Leon Lai, Zhang Ziyi, Sun Honglei, Masanobu Ando
Forever Enthralled is available on .