Confucius on Blu-ray and DVD

Saturday, 02 October 2010 11:04

This movie tells the legendary story of Confucius (aka Kong Ze), a master politician, philosopher and moralist in China around 500 BC. Chow Yun-Fat (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Hard Boiled”) plays the titular man of immense wisdom, and he is joined by a huge cast. The film follows Confucius and his loyal disciples through his rise to high political office and then his descent to destitution.

The film opens at a time when the sage is in his early fifties, and at the height of his mental powers. Confucius is elevated to Minister of Law in the Kingdom of Lu by General Ji (Chen Jianbin), a man who recognises Confucius’ potential despite his common upbringing. This contentious manoeuvre risks offending members of the region’s three highly influential noble families, who seemingly will not rest until Confucius is deposed.

Confucius comes to UK Blu-ray and DVDFrom there we follow the educator through the trials and tribulations of his further meteoric rise to Minister of the Interior, the success of his deft military tactics which dupe the warring nation of Qi into backing down from an early attack on Lu, and eventually his exile from the Kingdom when the General is manipulated into fearing that Confucius’ bid to knock down the last of the city’s three walls is a step too far. Confucius wishes to bring unity and peace to the area but others value their wealth and power too much to give it up without a fight.

Confucius and his disciples go wandering from state to state, imparting wisdom and fleeing as a tsunami of chaos and war follows them across China. They stick to their lofty values despite experiencing starvation and freezing wintry conditions and meanwhile, militant Qi is once more beating at the door of their beloved Lu nation.

Knowing next to nothing about this iconic figure, I do not feel equipped to comment on the historical accuracy of the director Hu Mei’s movie. Some other commentators have mentioned that it is unremittingly positive in its portrayal of Confucius, and that is true – he is not shown to put a foot wrong. He is, however, shown to be a humble human being who values life above everything else.

The casting of Chow Yun-Fat is inspired; the actor imbues the character with a softness and warmth that is irresistible. There might be moments when the movie becomes a little trite, but for the most part you find yourself swept along despite the relative lack of action and excitement. For once, Yun-Fat does not break any heads (though he does prove to be a dab hand at archery). Instead, when he is present in the battle scenes, he is helping to co-ordinate them from afar rather than getting his hands bloody.

These scenes of war are obviously embellished with special effects and CGI, but for the most part they are adeptly designed and choreographed. The movie looks its best when it takes in the more natural landscapes, however. It is very ambitious in its scope, but despite this there is plenty of attention to detail in even every-day, rural scenes.

Fans of frenetic Hong Kong action movies need not apply here, but those people with an interest in the wider reaches of Oriental cinema should find this film is an interesting, attractive and quite relaxing product that suits a Sunday afternoon down to the ground.

The disc comes with a high-quality making-of which is split into a 6-8 parts covering topics such as Yun-Fat’s casting and interpretation of Confucius, animal wrangling (there are lots of animals in this movie!) and the choreography of the battle scenes. It also features an audio commentary by genre expert Bey Logan, and a trailer (which can be viewed here).

“Confucius” (2010) is out now on DVD (version reviewed) and Blu-ray, via Showbox Media’s Cine-Asia label. The running time of the main feature is 119 minutes approx, certificate ‘15’ and the movie retails for £17.99 on DVD and £24.99 on Blu-ray, or less from

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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