A Character Analysis of the Wife, the Four Mistresses and the Maid Yan'er in the Film Raise the Red Lantern (1991).
In the film “Raise the Red Lantern,” the director Zhang Yimou leveraged a lot of symbols to illustrate that the rich old man is the only one in the house who has the power to control everything. The director used Red Lanterns as a symbol to demonstrate the power of the rich old man without even showing his face once for the entire movie. The rich old man controls the fates of all these five poor women in the millionaire’s vast mansion through lighting the Red Lantern. The whole story took place in the mansion, where in the first place seems to be luxurious and magnificent. However, as the story goes, the mansion turned out to be a “prison”.
The key of this movie is the old customs and traditions and these old customs and traditions were repeatedly emphasized throughout the movie. What is more, the traditions connect everyone in the house together and due to their own personalities, they reacted differently towards the traditions. Eventually, the various personalities create very complicated relationships between the fourth and the other three mistresses and the maid. First mistress is elder and seems cold but, in fact, she is not really bad character. When the fourth mistress comes to meet her, she was asking about Song Lian’s age. After she knows that Song is only nineteen years old, she says: “Sin! Sin!” This scene shows her sympathy towards Song Lian. It also implies that she hates the patriarchy society but she has no power to change it due to her personality and age.
Moreover, she does not need to risk herself to fight with this system because she can already consider herself as a “winner” in this “four women war,” since she has been here for the longest time among these four mistresses and she gives Master Chen his oldest son, which is like a crown already put on her head. Every time no matter how intense other three mistresses are arguing, she always stay out of the conflict.
Nevertheless, her soul feels lonely after her son grown up and left town for his business. She literally live by herself, since master Chen prefers younger wives and does not come her place quiet often. Therefore, she devote herself to Buddhism and let religion gives herself relief and hope.
Zhuo Yun, the second women of Master Chen, is a very complicated woman. She appears to be nice to everyone. For example, when Song Lian was “bullied” by the third mistress, Zhuo Yun always comforts Song to win her trust. Since Song is only nineteen years old, she was tricked by Zhuo Yun and believes that Zhuo Yun is the only person that she can rely on inside this huge dark mansion.
However, the real darkness inside Zhuo Yun’s mind finally overshadowed her nice mask. Before Song comes, Zhuo Yun has been a rival with the third mistress for a long time. She accepted the truth that she is in the patriarchy society and she wants to be the “Queen” behind the “King” Master Chen. Her greedy turned herself into a cold-blood killer because she wants to get rid of whoever stands on her way to become the “Queen” of this mansion. Nevertheless, she would never get herself a sense of safety because when the fifth mistress comes, the new war will start all over again. No matter how the women war is going to end, the only victim will still be these women themselves. Therefore, second mistress is not only a cruel, and wily character but also a victim of this society.
In the beginning of the movie, Mei Shan, the third mistress, appears to be a bad mistress because she steals Master Chen from their “First night”. She is jealous, mean, and annoying but indeed she is not a real sophisticated, ruthless and vicious person. As an illustration, she was the one who reveals the cruelness inside this mansion to Song Lian. Thus, Song was prepared for everything in the later of the movie.
Her aggressive and cocky personality ruin the