Combining his talents as a novelist, Taoist scholar, martial-arts expert, scriptwriter (for Wong Kar-wai’s forthcoming feature) and connoisseur of Chinese culture, Xu Haofeng has created an utterly original incarnation of the martial arts genre with The Sword Identity.
Xu’s film stands apart from Hong Kong kung-fu cinema and its traditional emphasis on fighting skills. Rather than a traditional martial-arts film, The Sword Identity is more a philosophical and historical essay cast on the screen. It is a very special film.
Once upon a time in the Southern Chinese city of Guancheng, there lived four families, each of them faithful keepers of martial arts. Anyone who wanted to establish a new sect, or a new form of kung fu, had to fight his way through the family’s gates. But when Liang Henlu (Song Yang) requests a competition, he is rejected and driven out of town, his strange new weapon mistaken for a Japanese sword and therefore forbidden by purist Chinese masters as a foreign fighting device. Liang is taken for a Japanese pirate and forced to hide in a boat filled with gypsy dancers.
After a series of fights prove Liang’s sword invincible, the Guancheng masters start to question their assumptions regarding the weapon’s origins. They finally recognize that it is none other than the famous sword called “Made in China” (modelled on a Japanese weapon), which the celebrated General Qi used in his glorious defeat of the Japanese invasion.
Fascinating, mysterious and visually captivating, The Sword Identity is imbued at every level with Xu’s philosophical musings. It possesses a culturally erudite soul and an exotic, sensual look. Brimming with surprises and populated by strange yet amusing characters, the film has a bizarre humour and a mesmerizing, fresh entertainment value that will easily win audiences over.