Zhang Yimou’s 2002 film ‘Hero’ is a fictional narrative set in the warring states period, where China was divided into different kingdoms. The main protagonist, nameless, and his three comrades – Broken Sword, Flying Snow, and Sky – aims to assassinate the Qi Emperor, who wishes to unite all the kingdoms through conquest. In a short scene from 59:00 – 1:02:35, Nameless duels with Broken Sword to commemorate Flying Snow, who sacrificed herself for the assassination of the Qi Emperor. In this scene, the movie uses Diegetic and non-diegetic sounds, pathos, and camera angles to exemplify the theme of serenity, showing that the warriors are peaceful despite their dire situation.
The movie first uses diegetic and non-diegetic sounds to convey the emotions of the warriors, including sadness and tranquility. Unlike other martial arts fight scenes, the non-diegetic music is very subtle and does not build intensity in any way. This reflects the peaceful emotional state of the warriors, illustrating that the duel is not a fight to the death but instead to commemorate Flying snow’s sacrifice. By employing subtle non-diegetic music into the scene, the movie induces a peaceful tone, illustrating that the warriors feel serene despite their sadness for the death of their comrade. Additionally, the diegetic sounds in this scene are clear and defined with an echoing effect, with no sound overlapping. This illustrates the heightened awareness of the fighter’s surroundings as the echoing effect of the diegetic sounds suggests that the warriors are aware of each sound, therefore portraying their peaceful and focused state of mind despite being under the influence of intense sadness.
In addition, the movie uses pathos to emotionally touch the audience by emphasizing the sadness of the warriors. The close shot of Broken Sword wiping away Flying Snow’s tears and the intensified music illustrate the sadness of Broken Sword. Although the music and close shot create a sad tone, the facial expression of Broken Sword remains still, showing that he embraces the sadness he feels for the death of Flying Snow. This further portrays the warrior’s courage, as Broken Sword continues to persevere under intense sadness, making the audience sympathize with his situation.
Finally, the movie utilizes several visual techniques such as contrast and camera shots to emphasize WuMing’s peaceful state of mind, therefore portraying him as a heroic figure. When the duel between Nameless and Broken Sword ends, the movie employs a long shot of Nameless walking towards a snowy mountain range. By displaying Nameless walking in an expansive external environment alone, the shot frames Nameless in a way where he is dwarfed by the surrounding environment, portraying him as insignificant. Despite this, he walks firmly towards the snowy mountains, a symbol of danger from the elements since the color white is often associated with death in Chinese culture. This displays Nameless’ unwavering courage, as he peacefully accepts and embraces his dire situation despite the presence of danger, therefore demonstrating the significance of serenity amidst chaos.