Little Big Soldier：Promotes the "Book of Songs", Pays a Tribute to Salinger
(Under the mountain, the soil is fertilized on five acres of land. What should I grow on five acres of land? The chickens are fat, gooses are fat, cows and goats are strong. Plant beans, plant paddies, canola flowers! - Indeed, the dream of an insignificant figure is to have a peaceful farmland and peaceful ranch.)
A fox lopes slowly, on the stone bank of the Qi River.
My heart is worried, that you don't have warm clothes.
A fox lopes slowly, by the river ford.
My heart is worried, that you don't have a belt.
A fox lopes slowly, on the other side of the river.
My heart is worried, that you don't have a new coat.
(This is a poem from the "Book of Songs". A fox refers to a man.)
Hearing the "Book of Songs" in a Jackie Chan film is no less amazing than seeing a song and dance duet in a Zhang Yi Mou film. I don't know how many people actually understood that scene because it is as complicated as the look in Yu Ce Cheng's eyes (he is a character in a Chinese drama series called "Lurk" who is somewhat based on a true historic figure working for the KMT Military Council)After the Liang soldier (Jackie Chan) captured the Wei prince (Lee Hom Wang), they met a wandering female singer (Lin Peng) on the journey back to the Liang state. In a scene, she left poison on their food, loosened her clothes and sang "There's a Fox". That scene wasn't long and wasn't necessary to the plot but it carried a lot of meaning:
- The reason for poisoning and causing harm to the Liang soldier was because her kin died during battle and she thought he was the Wei prince because he wore the Wei prince's helmet.
- The poem "There's a Fox" is generally a love poem about a woman courting a man. It talks about how one can love the other despite the other being poor and having nothing to wear. This poem was suitable for flirting in the scene because the Liang soldier was dressed shabbily and at the same time, the poem asked an indirect question: "Why are you dressed like a beggar although you are the Wei prince?" Unfortunately, he couldn't have answered because how would he have known these things?
- Although the Liang soldier did not understand, the Wei prince did. But he thought the singer was someone from the Wei state so when she came towards him to give him the soup, he whispered to her for help. The singer's initial plan was indeed to help him (The one that the singer wanted to harm was the Wei prince, not the Liang soldier. But since she thought the Liang soldier was the Wei prince, OBVIOUSLY she thought the Wei prince was the Liang soldier! So no harm in helping the "Liang soldier"!) but, for some reason, she said, "I wasn't going to make you drink this at first." and then she made him drink the soup.
- Maybe it was because she wasn't sure of their identities but she didn't harm them further. She merely whispered the word "retribution" in the real Wei prince's ear (whom she thought was the Liang soldier). And this word was only revealed by the real Wei prince at the end to echo the glory of the word "peace" that was hung on the wishing tree. That "retribution" was: The Liang soldier sacrificed his life for his state in the end but the brave Wei prince surrendered to the Qin state.
- (Another interpretation of "There's a Fox" is "a wife longing for her husband who has gone away for a long time". I guess when the singer sung that poem again under the wishing tree, she was trying to implicate "peace" - to become a better person from her flirtatious self.)
This Jackie Chan film is a tribute to the late J.D. Salinger, which surprises me more than him talking about the "Book of Songs" on "Bai Jia Jiang Yun" (a Chinese show). Especially in this dream scene: "The Liang soldier was running happily on a land full of canola flowers when suddenly he sees a young beggar whom he once saved aiming and shooting an arrow at him." That young beggar is a symbol that signifies something very strong in the film. He appeared a number of times so if you are interested, watch out for that. I guess Jackie Chan wanted to use that "field" scene because he wanted to convey a "save the children" message like Holden. Because he loves peace, he was willing to be a canola flower field watchman (like Holden's Catcher in the Rye).
Besides canola flowers and the young beggar, there are lot of other things that symbolized something in the film. Those who have a liking towards information, you may check up on the following:
- The film begun with a raised flag and ended with a raised flag. At the beginning of the film, the Wei army was ambushed by the Liang army. In order to protect the Wei flag, the Wei prince fought hard with his life, only to encounter a sneak attack by a Liang soldier, who pretended to be dead, and end up as a captive. Yet at the end of the story, when the Liang soldier returned to his state and realised it had already been defeated, he, who initially was a coward and was afraid to die, died protecting his state's last flag.
"My Father Said"
- This was the most frequently used line in the film. And this "father" is an important "hidden" character. The line, "My father speaks well, draws well and writes well." is like a line said by Zhao Ben Shan (a Chinese skit and sitcom actor)who frequently quotes his father. In the film, the father has the ability to draw maps. But what's important isn't the map itself but the word the father wrote behind it: Peace (In that era, those who can write were not your average person).
- This was the second most frequently used line in the film. It's the Liang soldier's catchphrase. In his heart, he felt: "As long as you live, all will be well because troubled times will always pass." It's like the Wei prince who wanted glory for his state but who decided against war in the end and surrendered to the Qin state.
- Another greatly used line. The Wei prince's catchphrase. Because it was used too many times, it gave people the feeling that the phrase was rather stiff and rigid. It became a strong tag (on the Liang soldier) for the purpose of telling everyone that: Jackie Chan really is a little insignificant figure in this film. But in the film, there is another meaning to this phrase: When a small figure does the work of a big figure, he will only bring harm to himself. But when a big figure possesses the tolerance of a small figure, great things can be achieved.
Five Acres of Land
- The Liang soldier captured the Wei prince for the reason that, in return, he wanted five acres of land to plant canola flowers, marry a wife and have a bit of land to lead a happy life. Actually, 100 acres at that time is like 29.07 acres today which means he would have gotten a mere 1.45 acres of land in exchange for the captured Wei prince. But that is his dream - to have a peaceful piece of farmland.
To have so many things symbolizing different things in a film, Jackie Chan continually reminds us of his change: That Jackie Chan films are getting deeper. But despite having its depth, films like "Hero", "A Battle of Wits" and "Wheat" have already touched on topics like these. Still, Jackie Chan was able to find a different perspective and also discover a rather good newbie (Lee Hom Wang). Together with the film's action scenes and funny elements, the film would still have been the most worth-watching new year film even without the symbols or its depth.
When you go and watch a film, you're always afraid there will be a lot of children. On the list of new year films this year, there are already three films that are suitable for children to watch: "Pleasant Goat and the Big Big Wolf", and two Jackie Chan films, "The Spy next Door" and "Little Big Soldier". Maybe in the eyes of children, Jackie Chan is as adorable as the grey wolf. But in "The Spy Next Door", this 56-year-old "grey wolf's" comical parts had me feeling a little heartache.
- I always get his films mixed up because every film is so similar. Jackie Chan is always just Jackie Chan. So, just for his effort in making the country more peaceful, I'll give the film three stars this time:
One star is for the two beauties in the film: Lin Peng and Lucky 7's Xu Dong Mei. Lin Peng's two routines of song and dance were breath-taking but might not have been necessary for the film. As for Xu Dong Mei, because she acted as a barbaric female leader, she had no proper dialogue except for a lot of "hems and haws". But her appearance gave off a sense of wild beauty which many would admire.
Another star is for Lee Hom Wang. He is a "king" in the musical world but has nothing to show for in term of film achievements. He even had to act in an x-rated film like "Lust, Caution". But acting as the Wei prince this time round with no glamourous clothing, his charm was still magnificent and he acted as a very calm and indifferent person. There was also chemistry between Jackie Chan and Lee Hom Wang. Finally, 34-year-old Lee Hom Wang is led on the right path by Jackie Chan.
The film's story is timed near the end of the Warring States period, with Wei and Liang at war. The story contradicts historical facts because during the Warring States period, Wei state was such a weak state, it got defeated a number of times. It was always other states who helped restore the state. Because it was so weak, Qin Shi Huang did not bother to destroy it. It was only later when the second emperor of Qin abdicated the Wei ruler (that's the Wei prince in the film), that it was considered officially destroyed. This was already twelve years after the rise of Qin dynasty (In the film, the rise of Qin dynasty either happened when the Wei prince was not yet the ruler or happened at the same time when he became a ruler. It wasn't clearly shown). For a weak state like Wei, it would be totally nonsensical to say that it had the ambition to rule the world. As for the Liang state, it is historically the Wei Kingdom (this is a different "Wei" from Wei state) , one of the seven strongest states during the Warring States period. It was a kingdom stronger than Wei state by a thousand fold. In this film, it is called "Liang" because the capital of Wei Kingdom at that time was called "Da Liang".
Of course, for a good film like this, to complain about such a small defect is to be hypercritical.
Some information on the reference to J.D. Salinger:
J.D. Salinger - Catcher in the Rye WIKIPEDIA
The relevant quote/thought from the book is this:
Mr. Antolini tells Holden that it is the stronger man who lives humbly, rather than dies nobly, for a cause.
The comparative scene to the canola field scene is this:
Holden (the main character) shares a fantasy he has been thinking about (based on a mishearing of Robert Burns' Comin' Through the Rye): he pictures himself as the sole guardian of numerous children running and playing in a huge rye field on the edge of a cliff. His job is to catch the children if they wander close to the brink; to be a "catcher in the rye".
I must point out that I don't believe one can take the comparison further than just a superficial level as the book and in particular the entire symbolism of the scene from the book is entirely different from what I understand the scene in the movie to convey. Superficially the desire to 'save the children' is the only parallel I can see. Although I have not seen the movie yet but I do not believe that the deeper themes of the book can possibly apply to the movie.