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The Last Emperor Essay

552 words - 3 pages

The Last Emperor (1987)     
            “The Last Emperor” tells the deeply emotional story of the end of the Manchu Dynasty in China. Pu Yi, Lord of Ten Thousand Years, is removed from the Forbidden City and placed in a puppet state during the period when China became a Republic. For the first time, Pu Yi struggles to live in a world outside his palace walls.
 
The story opens with an older Pu Yi (played by John Lone) as a prisoner of war in 1950. There he is interrogated and forced to relive his tragic past. In 1908, three-year old Manchurian-born Pu Yi was taken from his mother and brought before the Dowager Empress Ci Xi in the Forbidden City. On her deathbed, the Empress named ...view middle of the document...

In 1919, Pu Yi received an English tutor, Reginald Johnston (played by Peter O’Toole). Under Johnston’s guidance, Pu Yi learned more about Western culture. Johnston was instrumental in getting Pu Yi some much-needed spectacles, and presented the growing Emperor with a bicycle. Pu Yi even chose a Western name for himself, Henry. At the age of sixteen, Henry Pu Yi chose a wife, and also a consort. Although he was married, Pu Yi was still unable to leave the safety of his palace walls. The outside world was changing rapidly, and Pu Yi could not rule China from within the City.
 
In 1924, Pu Yi finally got his chance to leave the Forbidden City. Unfortunately, the City had fallen to a warlord, and Pu Yi and his family were forced out. He was a prisoner, now afraid to leave his familiar world, but still very much intent on ruling. For several years, he lived in a Japanese Embassy. He had a troubled relationship with both of his wives, and in 1931, he was moved to the new country of Manchukuo. There, Pu Yi was made the puppet emperor, and the Chinese considered him a traitor. For ten years, Pu Yi was a captive of the Communists, but in reflection, Pu Yi had lived almost his entire life as a captive.
 
“The Last Emperor” is an excellent film that is both poignant and historically accurate. Visually, the Forbidden City is stunning. John Lone (“M Butterfly,” “Rush Hour 2”) does a wonderful job portraying the tragic Son of Heaven, and the rest of the cast is believable in their roles as well. Whether a sea of eunuchs is kowtowing before the child Emperor, or an army of invaders is approaching, the choreography and attention for detail is splendid.

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