The screenwriter of Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmasters is making his debut feature film, which looks like an intriguing take on the Chinese martial-arts genre films.
The Sword Identity tells the story of a young swordsman competing against the masters of 4 different philosophies of combat… Although it’s his directorial debut, Xu Haofeng also happens to be a novelist – the film is actually based on a book of his – well-versed in Chinese culture (Taoism), and deeply fund of martial arts. In other words, the guy knows his subject. Combining his talents & interests, he’s delivering something quite different from the actual other martial-arts productions.
No big effects, no big stars, no shaky & overly edited sequence, Xu Haofeng is taking his time to show the martial philosophy. Based on the following clips, the film is beautifully shot & staged, with captivating visuals, surely filled with many subtle details or influences from some specific chinese cultural fields – the fight in the 1st clip has this theatrical feel, with the beaten guard (?) going unactive/in the shadow, and new elements suddenly coming out of the shadow, it’s also the way to use this courtyard like a stage scene, with the limited background pattern.
Between the long slow-paced shots, introspective voice-overs, philosophical assertions to understand the martial wisdom, The Sword Identity looks like the perfect opposite of Peter Chan’s 2011 film Wu Xia, which tries to show the rational explanation of martial arts.
The film is on the festival circuit for now (Toronto, Venice).