A Discussion on the Dialectical in Hero by Zhang Yimou

Discuss the usefulness of the idea of the ‘dialectical’ with regard to any of the texts on this module. ‘Dialectic’ refers to the dialogue between two or more positions, holding different perspectives about a subject, who wish to establish the truth of the matter by dialogue with reasoned arguments. It may be postulated that Hero works on a Hegelian dialectic model, in that the tensions between the protagonist and antagonist of the film are constantly reworking the other, till a synthesis of their essence is achieved. Aufhebung” or sublation, being the motor by which the Hegelian dialectic functions (Palm, 2009) indicates the preservation of a useful portion of an idea, while moving beyond its limitations. The dialectic of Hero is realized in two ways; multiple narratives and multiple forms of dialogue-and suggests that there is no absolute truth, and that we arrive at the final truth through the dialectical interplay of different truths that challenge, change and preserve each other at once.

The framed narrative structure of Hero displays the dialectic that exists between the King and Nameless as multiple narratives are being set up to communicate the different points of view existing between Nameless and the King. The celebration of the multiplicity of perspectives, or points of view, serves to highlight the nature of truth as a product of dialectical interplay between multiple presented truths. Hero functions as a prism, as seen from the division of the film into various vibrantly colored narratives as emblems of different truths.

The self-similar fractal dimension each narrative holds highlights the fact that each narrative contains elements of the narrative before it, and each truth is derived from the truth before it, where each progressive narrative retains select elements of the previous one but changes others to create a different story. This is evident in the dialogical exchange between Nameless and the King, where the King chooses to accept parts of Nameless’ story as true and other parts as false.

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Sublation occurs in the interaction between Nameless and the King, where both of them have their own truths in terms of ideologies, and the dialectical interaction of the two allows the two truths to interact and change each other as a result. For example, in order to get within 10 feet of the King, a limitation Sky, Broken Sword and Flying Snow could not breach, Nameless presents their weapons and in Broken Sword’s case his calligraphy. The items here are symbolic of each swordsman’s ideologies, and Nameless through accepting their weapons has similarly internalized their ideologies, hence changing his own truth as a result.

Nameless as the bearer of Broken Sword’s truth then influences the King, so much so that the latter places his life in his would-be killer’s hands. Broken Sword’s truth resonates strongly with the King’s truth here, and this unification of their truths represents the power of the unification the King is striving to achieve, in the sense that it is powerful enough to make Nameless give up his goal of killing the King, something he had trained for more than 10 years for and defined himself by.

Therefore even though Nameless has to be killed for the preservation of the social order, the King who is left standing at the end of the film has been changed, and this is evident from his hesitance in sentencing Nameless to death, something he would not have hesitated to do prior to their meeting. Truth is seen here as something that we define ourselves by, and when our truth is changed, so do our definitions of ourselves and hence our identity.

The dialectic in Hero finds physical form through the dialogical form that fighting takes on in the sense that there is an oppositional structural clash between two people holding on to different ideals. Over the course of the film, fighting is seen as a form of self-expression, and it shows how two people, charged with different ideals, clash, with the result that the one left standing has been changed in some manner by the other.

The fight at the end of the film, between Broken Sword, who has forsaken his revenge for the sake of unification, and Flying Snow, who holds on to her revenge and blames Broken Sword for giving up his, represents exactly this point. The dichotomization between opposite ideals creates a cognitive dissonant effect which highlights the struggle between personal ideals and greater ideals that supersede the self. This conflict is ealized in Flying Snow whose triumph over Broken Sword grants her the unfortunate belated realization that at some level she yearned for coexistence with his ideal despite its clash with hers, as connoted by the repetition of “why didn’t you defend yourself? ”, and this dissonance leads her to commit suicide to be reunited with her lover. Ultimately the clash of two people representing their own ideals has resulted in the prevalence of one person whose ideal has changed as a result.

The communicative exchange between Nameless and Broken Sword as seen in the swordfight, over the water’s surface, in which calligraphic elements are embedded, signals a dialogic exchange not only of martial arts but also in terms of ideals. The constant parallelism of each other’s movements in the water signals that it is not a swordfight of conflict but rather conversation, as seen from the sword strokes through the water akin to the strokes of a calligraphy brush on a canvas.

Significantly the fight climaxes in the back-and-forth hitting of the water droplet, where the fluidity of water alludes to the fluid nature of truth and how it can be molded to serve one’s purpose. The fight ends when the water droplet hits Flying Snow’s face, and Nameless who turns back from his original purpose of striking Broken Sword also ends up with water droplets on his face.

By drawing a parallel between Flying Snow and Nameless, who both sought revenge against the King for the destruction of their homelands, we see a tension between Nameless and Flying Snow’s common ideal and Broken Sword’s ideal. This tension is only resolved through Flying Snow’s death, and Nameless’s act of turning away, suggesting that when one holds on to a particular ideal such that it becomes one’s truth and identity, the inevitable clash of this truth with another’s will result in the deconstruction of one and the reconstruction of another.

In conclusion, when we view things through different lens, we will come away with different truths each time. Hero exemplifies this for us and causes us to examine the nature of truth through the dialectical intercourse of each truth. Truth serves an existential purpose and it is important for each and every one of us to derive our own truth and hence determine our identity and purpose in life.

The message of Hero is that though there are forces in existence that are greater than ourselves, the power of a common truth of all the nameless citizens can sometimes influence the truth of the one in power, in this case the King, and determine his actions. Everyone’s truth is different, but it is the meaning that we attach to it that defines us and sets us apart. Bibliography Palm, R. (2009). Retrieved October 17, 2012, from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven: https://lirias. kuleuven. be/bitstream/123456789/234670/1/PALM+dissertat..

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