Wang de cheng yan (Last Supper) (2012)

 

 

 

Director:     Lu Chuan.

Starring:       Ye Liu (Liu Bang), Daniel Wu (Xiang Yu), Chen Chang (Han Xin), Jie Gao, Qi Li (Xiang Bo), Yulai Lu (Zi Ying), Yuan Nie, Dao Qi (Zhang Liang), Lan Qin (Lu Zhi), Yi Sha (Xiao He).

story of two warring generals (Liu Bang and Xiang Yu) fighting for control of China at the end of the Qin Dynasty

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

195 BC, China.  A warrior has a bow in his left hand and a sword in his right hand.  He says:  "My nightmare."  The man is being chased by troops on horseback. 

An old man lays on his bed and says his name is Emperor Liu Bang and he is 61 years of age..  He was born in the small Pei County.  He says he has two mortal enemies and. they have haunted his dreams his entire life.  One of the men was Lord Xiang Yu and the other was General Xin.

He sees concubine Qi.  Her Highness Empress Liu comes into the room and tells Qi that she may leave. 

Minister Xiao comes into the room walking on all fours and making a lot of noise.  The Minister says he has brought General Xin.  Or rather he has brought him the severed head of General Xin.  Liu Bang crawls out of bed to get a good look at the head.

Flashback.  General Xin says he first saw Liu Bang in Xue Town, but Liu doesn't remember seeing Xin.  He only remembers seeing the 24 year old Lord Yu.  At that time Liu was already 48.  He also remembers that Lord Yu had a beautiful wife.  At the time he was leading the rebellion against the Qin.  And at the time, Xin and Liu were only street rats, but street rats that wanted to join Lord Yu's army. 

Fourteen years ago.  General Xin says he has never heard of this fellow Zeng.  Just then a thunder storm drops lots of rain on the area. It soon stops.  Liu says to Lord Yu that he is here asking for troops to rescue his wife and his men.  An advisor to the Lord says they should eliminate this man for he will constitute a threat.  The soldiers come forward, but so too steps forward a group of Liu's supporters.  Liu says that they must forgive his friends, because they are from the country and don't know courtly manners.  There is a scuffle between the soldiers and Liu's friends. Now the advisor says about Liu:  "This man should not be killed."  Lord Yu says he will lend the man 5,000 soldiers  He tells Liu to do what he has to do, but then come back and join Lord Yu's forces.  Liu is now presented with a sword and armor.   

Liu strikes at the prison to free his wife.  She is a little distant from him now and tells him:  "You had a bastard son with a widow."  Then she pulls back a sliding door and shows him two boys and one girl.  The eldest boy is Liu Fei.  She asks if her husband has ever seen him?  His mother died and she has taken the child into their family.   Liu says he was drunk and he is sorry. 

Liu's wife watches from atop a hill as her husband and his soldiers move out. 

Liu says Lord Yu and he went from being sworn brothers to mortal enemies.  Meanwhile, Lord Yu held his wife as a hostage.  Years later, when his wife returned to him he didn't know what to say to her.  Liu had taken another woman and they had a son. 

Liu calls in his inner circle of advisers.  He asks where is General Xin?  He is still locked up and it's been six years like that.  Liu goes to see the General who has to carry a large board around his neck.   He tells his men to let the General go, but keep and eye on him.  Minister Zhang says the man can stay with him. 

The place where Liu lives in is the the palace of the Qin Emperor.  He says:  "Who would have thought that commoners like us could topple an empire and live here?" 

207 BC.  Outskirts of the Qin capital.  The Qin Emperor Ziying surrendered and welcomed Liu into the city.   All the Qin registers lie in the Qin archives. 

Liu tells an aide to block off the Hangu Pass and seal all paths to the capital.  The aide says no, because Lord Yu will be here soon.  Liu replies:  "Whoever takes the capital first will be its lord."  That's the deal Lord Yu and he agreed to. 

Liu asks for a progress report on General Xian. Minister Zhang, who is in poor health, says the man locks himself up in his own place night and day.  Liu says General Xian was crucial in helping him take the Qin palace.  But then he was disloyal and had to be imprisoned.  He goes on to say that Minister Zhang was also crucial in the capture of the Qin palace. 

He remembers when Zhang came running in on him when he was naked with two women. (Very brief nudity.)  Zhang told him that Lord Yu and his army of 400,000 soldiers had broken through the Hangu Pass and they would attack by morning.  And most of Liu's troops surrendered or fled, so that now Liu has no troops. 

Zhang tells Liu that Minister Bo advised him to flee.  Liu begs Brother Bo to do something for him.  Bo says it's too late.  Zhang brings out a box of pearls for Bo and Liu says his daughter could marry Bo's son.  Now Bo has a change of heart and says he could go tonight and speak with Lord Yu.  Liu thanks Bo very much, but Bo warns him that Liu will still have to face Lord Yu himself in the morning.  Zhang says he will go with Liu. 

Back to the present.  Minister Bo comes in to see Liu.  Liu asks him why did General Xin desert Lord Yu and come over to him?   Bo says he doesn't know why.  Bo was the uncle of Lord Yu.  Xin quite Lord Yu at the height of the Lord's power.  Liu gets really angry, especially at the observation that General Xin was the one who defeated Lord Yu.  Liu says General Xin does not deserve all the credit for the defeat of Yu.  Many people played their part and deserve credit.  Liu becomes so over-excited that he starts coughing up blood and falls on the floor.  The Empress tends to him.  He speaks of his nightmare. 

Flashback.  Lord Yu's Camp, site of the Hongmen Banquet.  The Emperor remembers that this was his last meeting with Lord Yu.  He gives Lord Yu the Qin imperial seal.  Liu says it was the darkest, most frightening moment of his life.  At the banquet Liu and his men are threatened with death and that scares the hell out of them.  Lord Yu wants to know if Liu entered the Qin palace?  Liu says he never entered the Qin palace. 

Liu says at Lord Yu's banquet that he pretended to be drunk and fled, but in his heart he knew Lord Yu had let him go.  General Xin had entered the Qin palace.  He was searching the archive library.  The guards catch the General and bring him to Lord Yu, who asks him what is he doing here?  Xin says there are fake documents in the archives.  They go to check on the archives and find this to be true.  Lord Yu says he knew that Liu had been in the Qin palace.  He then tells General Xin that no one is to enter the Qin palace alone.  He throws on the floor one of the documents. 

The Qin Emperor is put into chains and has to carry a big, heavy lock weight around his neck and chest.  Lord Yu says if  the Qin Emperor does not tell him if Liu was ever in the Qin palace, he will kill him.  Xin says:  "So be it."   The emperor is brought out in a basket.  It looks like he's been tortured.  He is taken to an execution platform and executed.  As narrator Liu says:  "I now realize why the Qin Emperor brought me to his palace.  To plant a seed of ambition in my heart.  When that seed sprouts I will become the sword of revenge."

Lord Yu says he has divided the once unified empire into 19 kingdoms.  He does this to reward those who helped him rise to power.  He tells his commanders now to go to their respective kingdoms.  Liu, who was the first to conquer the capital is made King of Han to govern the lands of Ba, Shu and Hanzhong.  Nanzheng will be the capital of Han. 

Liu narrates:  "I don't know why Lord Yu spared me. Or why he spared General Xin.  He let General Xin live.  . . . That day, General Xin, an ordinary soldier, left Lord Yu and joined my army."  On Xiao's recommendation Xin became his chief general.  Five years later he and Xin showed Lord Yu that he made a fatal mistake. 

203 BC, Gaixia battlefield.  General Xin defeats Lord Yu with an army of 300,000.  Lord Yu's wife commits suicide.  Lord Yu slits his own throat and the army chops the body up. 

Back to the present.  Liu tells his wife that she can go now.  His concubine comes in.  The wife tells the court staff to go home, it's late.  Liu tells his concubine that someone is trying to kill him. 

In the morning Liu's wife tells him that the rumors that he is dying are growing stronger.  The ministers in court are paying respect to General Xin.  The ministers are afraid for their lives.  Liu tells his wife to go see Zhang. 

Zhang tells the wife that General Xin has been loyal so why would Liu want to kill him?  The wife replies:  "Does His Majesty need a reason to kill anyone?"  Zhang asks if His Majesty will kill General Xin for no reason, then why shouldn't the Emperor come after him and the others like him after that?  Zhang bemoans the fact that that the Emperor wants Zhang to kill General Yu.  He says he cannot kill the General. 

Zhang goes to see General Xin.  He tries to tell Xin in a round-about way that the Emperor is a little mad at him.  Xin is defiant and angry about this news.  He says:  "Kings are made, not born."

Zhang reports to Liu's wife.  He tells her the phrase that Xin used, and that just makes the wife more sure that Xin in plotting against the Emperor. She warns Zhang not to end up like Xiang Yu  --  dead.  So, Zhang tells her that Xin still has thirteen of his original commanders.  "Send them northwest to quell the rebels."  He adds that the key man is Xiao because he has the ear of General Xin. 

The man leading the investigation of the Hongmen Banquet, Xiao, doubts what has been written in the archives about it.  He says that Lord Yu knew a lot of men wanted to kill Liu.  So he inserted an expert swordsmen in among the soldiers whose purpose was to save Liu. At the banquet a huge fish was served and stuck in the mouth of the fish was a sword that Minister Bo could grab to protect Liu.  The man inserted in the mix was Lord Yu's bodyguard, General Xin.  The investigator now checks to see if his many scribes have written down on sticks what he just told them.  He is furious when he finds out that no scribe has written anything down. 

And now arrives Liu's wife.  She tells Xiao that she understands that he is trying to save Xin's reputation, but his history has already been written.  And she doesn't feel that any revision of history is necessary.  She now has an aide read the history. 

"In the 11th spring of the Han Dynasty General Xin, along with convicts and slaves, plotted an attack on Her Highness and the prince and was executed by Her Highness in the bell tower at the age of 35, along with his family."  Xiao becomes very upset and says that Ministers Zhang and Bo are on their way here and they will prove that General Xin was loyal.  A man steps up to say that Minister Zhang can't come because he is suffering from leg pain.  Another man says Minister Bo will not be coming.  Her Highness has another scroll read off.  "In the 11th spring of the Han Dynasty Minister Bo was granted a royal audience.  In light of his age and loyal service, His Majesty granted him the royal surname Liu.  On his way back, he was stabbed."  Then Her Highness says not everything one reads in a scroll is true.  A man says that he personally saw the death of Minister Bo. 

Stunned by these revelations, Xiao asks if his history has been written out.  Another scroll is given to Xiao.  He opens it quickly and finds that it is blank.  Her Highness says that Xiao can write out his own history.  Xiao says he needs to speak to the Emperor and runs toward his room, but he is stopped by the servants and told that His Majesty is not well and cannot be seen. 

Xiao is told by the servants that the banquet will be starting soon and he is to invite General Xin.  Xin and Xiao walk down the long, narrow walkway to the palace.  As Xin walks slowly memories of his life come to him. At the end of the walkway and the start of a walkway surrounded on both sides by water, Xiao says he can go no farther.  General Xin starts on his slow walk.  The gate is closed behind him. 

On the second floor balconies, all the spaces are taken up by a large audience.  Someone reads:  ""General Xin has plotted treason with Minister Chen and other traitors against Her Highness and the prince. An unpardonable offense."  He is grabbed and bound.  A rope is placed around his neck and the executioner slowly tightens the rope from behind by twisting the rope.  After Xin is dead, he's released and his body falls to the floor.  He is then hoisted up in the air to hang there.

The gate is opened and the body lowered to the floor.  With Her Highness looking on, Minister Xiao now takes out his knife and stabs it into the neck of the deceased General Xin.  He proceeds to decapitate the General.    With a small box, he struggles to make it up the aisle to His Majesty and says he has brought General Xin.  His Majesty asks what did he say?  He then takes in a breath of air and dies. 

"Spring 195 BC.  Emperor Liu died at the Han Palace."  He was 61 years old, a commoner who became an emperor.  After his death, his wife killed all his sons by his concubines.  2,000 years later the Han became the largest "race" in the land.

 

This film, like that of White Vengeance (2011), is about the Chu–Han Contention (206–202 BC), an interregnum between the Qin Dynasty and the Han Dynasty.  Xinag Yu and Lui Bang are also the major characters.  It's a little easier to understand than the more complicated plot of 'White Vengeance".  In this movie, the wife of Liu Bang plays a more important part making some decisions on her own. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

 

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