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“The Last Emperor” Chinese Movie Essay


The Last Emperor is a Chinese movie that captures the history of China and makes people have a look at the most exciting parts of the history of this country in comparison. It depicts the biography of the last emperor before the implementation of the communist regime.

The movie under consideration points to the difference between the mode of life people lead before and after the establishing of the Communist Regime, it shows the story of a man who had everything and lost it in one day when he was arrested and considered as the betrayer, a great emperor of the millions becomes a prisoner, but what was a real jail, a Forbidden City which he could not leave or the prison which he had managed to be out is the question everybody should think about after the final scene of the movie.

The Last Emperor is focused on the life of Puyi, a man who became an emperor of millions when he was only three years old and died as unknown man. Puyi grows up in the Forbidden City and is not expected to leave the gates.

Possessing great power and the ability to do whatever he wants, being able to punish and to show merci, Puyi becomes a hostage of this power, Puyi is unable to leave the place he lives in, the Forbidden City. He plans to escape to England but his tutor advices that he gets married instead. Later, he is forced out of the Forbidden City and runs to Manchuria with his family.

Even though he does not have real power, Puyi is given a post as an emperor by the Japanese, but his wife leaves accusing him of betraying the Chinese people. During the World War II, Puyi is arrested and imprisoned by the Chinese Communist Party. The Cultural Revolution formally aimed at improving the life of the people who lived in China is really directed at the establishing of the dictator regime via violence and unfair imprisonment (Su 182).

The movie refers to the social and historical forces in China to develop the plot and the characters. The character of the emperor is brought out clearly as it was in the Chinese history. The emperor life was dictated by the traditions of the dynasty. What he wears to what he eats and who to marry are part of the traditions.

He is expected to live within the walls of the Forbidden City and yet he has power over those beyond the walls. His shelter, the Forbidden City is built on a more than 250 acres land with 9999 different rooms. The plot captures lack of a strong leader in the dynasty.

Watching the movie, it becomes understood that there are two time lines in the movie, the one where Puyi is an emperor (starting with his young years) and another one where he is imprisoned. The whole movie may be divided into three parts.

The first part is the imprisonment as a war criminal, the second one is the recollections from the childhood and youth and the final one is the life of a person who was influenced by the ‘positive’ revolution reforms (Terrill 247). The first scenes show adult Puyi who stays in prison and remembers about his childhood. He remembers how he came to the Forbidden City and met his nursing mother.

These scenes include flashbacks of how he grew up there up to the time of exile and captivity in Russia. The experience of Puyi in prison follows the flashbacks when he learns about the Japanese war and realizes his responsibilities. Puyi’s life after imprisonment for war crimes proceeds by his attempt to adopt a new life as a gardener during a period of the Cultural Revolution.

In the final scene Puyi goes to the Forbidden City and sits on the emperor throne where he takes the cricket he played with as a child and hands it to a young boy. When the boy turns to thank him, he finds that Puyi has vanished. This scene concludes with a parade outside the throne where tourists are given information about the death of Puyi, the last emperor of the Great Chinese Empire.

The movie captures the historical period between the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the central ideas of the movie is to show the change of the regime in the reflection of the historical background. Living in the Forbidden City, Puyi is not aware of the situation in the whole world. It seems for him that he is protected by the invisible sheet, but it is not so. The walls of the empire are ruined and Puyi has nothing to do how to escape and try to protect his live. The changes in the society are inevitable, and an emperor cannot cope with the problems.

There were a number of reasons of the empire fall. The administration was weak to support the societal needs. The military was not strong and they could not give security to their own territory. The soldier’s salary had not been reviewed for a long time; hence they earned very little to support their livelihood. They failed to protect the Forbidden City from attacker who chased the emperor from the city as the people were vulnerable to war and became victims.

The plot captures the social element of helplessness when the emperor is defeated. The Chinese military during the revolution lacked cooperation and were inefficient. The story shows that the soldiers could not protect the emperor from being attacked by foreign army in his premises. When the leader is no longer in the throne those belonging to his dynasty become subject to the new master.

Being in the prison, Puyi is called for interrogation where he is accused of the connections with Japanese occupiers. Watching the flashbacks, it becomes visible for us that Puyi did not betray his nation, but no one listens to him.

This is one of the brightest examples of the Cultural Revolution and the social regime which had been established in the country. Mao cult is one of the central ideas of the movie which is veiled due to the desire to make the audience to remember the times of Mao in China and the reforms he provided, the life he established (Terrill 323).

The Last Emperor is a movie that explains the historical and social reasons why the emperor collapses, pointing to the major events in the history, their reasons and consequences. The audience is given an opportunity to think about the evens, relate those to the specific time in the history and make their own conclusions. The movie is based not on the consecutive chain of events, but on the basis of recollections and flashbacks which allows us to see the cause-and-effect relation of the actions of the emperor on his future life as a war criminal.

Works Cited

Su, Yang. Collective killings in rural China during the Cultural Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

Terrill, Ross. Mao: a biography. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999. Print.

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""The Last Emperor" Chinese Movie." IvyPanda, 25 May 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/chinese-movies/.

1. IvyPanda. ""The Last Emperor" Chinese Movie." May 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinese-movies/.


IvyPanda. ""The Last Emperor" Chinese Movie." May 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinese-movies/.


IvyPanda. 2019. ""The Last Emperor" Chinese Movie." May 25, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinese-movies/.


IvyPanda. (2019) '"The Last Emperor" Chinese Movie'. 25 May.

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