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'The Assassin' by Hou Hsiao-hsien

  • Publish Date:2015-09-30
'The Assassin' by Hou Hsiao-hsien


Hou's sumptuous take on the classic martial arts genre is a work of strange and subtle power. The ravishing production follows a shadowy assassin whose lethal effectiveness is compromised by her troubled conscience and orders to murder her former betrothed. She must choose between her heart and her assassin's creed.

Did You Know That … ?

  • According to screenwriter Chu Tien-wen (朱天文), Nie Yinniang originally had a total of 16 lines in the film, but only 9 lines were kept after the cut.

  • The director had to change the script because of Shu Qi's acrophobia. His original vision was for the assassin to hide deep in the trees, but she yelped with each leap, so the tree was changed to a beam.

  • Hou Hsiao-hsien has stated that his concept of wuxia is based on speed and precision, in which there is no room for drawn-out fight scenes since a skillful practitioner would only need one or two moves to disarm and win.

Select Reviews


"A movie of great intelligence and aesthetic refinement … [Hou] has brought to the wuxia material his own uncompromising seriousness, and welded this seriousness to the form's mythic resonance." ― The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw

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"This is an idiosyncratic, even personal view of the genre. Its bursts of lightning-fast swordplay interrupt long, still stretches of misty moonlight landscapes and follow a pure literary style more than current genre expectations … the film follows a formal logic of its own." ― The Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young


"An immaculate treasure box of light, texture and movement … an extraordinary comeback from a necessary filmmaker." ― The Telegraph's Robbie Collin

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"Exquisitely stultifying. Maddeningly languid. There is no question that the Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s characteristically meditative take on the Wuxia genre is gorgeous." ― The Time's Wendy Ide