The movie Hero originated on a historical event in China during 221 BC, before Emperor Qin first unified China. At that time, Qin had to annihilate the other six countries, Han, Zhao, Wei, Chu, Yan, and Qi, to unify China. Wu Ming (Nameless), the main character, is an assassin from Qi and wants revenge on Emperor Qin. In the movie Hero, directed by Zhang Yimou, the color scheme, camera lighting, and shot angles intrigue the idea that power can impact others to change beliefs and establish peace and harmony.
Overall, the whole movie is mainly separated into six parts by different colors, and each color represents a perspective of what happened and the narration of the story. In the last section of this movie, from 1:18:15-1:21:31, Zhang mainly utilizes black to portray each character’s absolute powers in the Qin palace. The Qin army represents absolute power, Emperor Qin for fundamental rights and authority, and Wu Ming for presided over the death of the King of Qin. The director uses black in this scene to tell us that the power of an individual can persuade us to believe in others and forget the revenge to achieve harmony between people. Wu Ming did not kill Emperor Qin because when he was standing in front of Qin, he realized his hatred seemed insignificant compared to the peace of all. The use of black in this scene has sublimated the theme, and the beliefs of Wu Ming influenced him to not assassin emperor Qin.
The lighting in this section is dim because the director wants to prominent the contradictions between the two opposite identities of Wu Ming and Emperor Qin. But also, the direct lighting on Wu Ming’s face shows his inner conflict: kill or not to kill.
The director utilizes a low shot and centered angle on filming the emperor of Qin; this represents the power and authority of Qin. To believe he is a trustworthy leader that can lead to “天下太平” (peace in all).
Moreover, Zhang uses close-up angles to contrast the conflicts of characters. In this shot, it is a very close-up angle on the sword of Wu Ming, and in this sword, it symbolizes the harmony of the citizens and the inner conflict of justice in his heart. Wu Ming knows if he killed Emperor Qin, then war would happen between different states, and China would never be unified, so he chose to believe in Qin and be shoot by the Qin army.