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House of Flying Daggers

shimianmaifu
On love as an alternative to law

Our story takes place at the end of a dynasty. The empire’s power to terrorize is not what it once was. As happens in such cases, secret societies emerge. On the other side of the law, it’s no clearer whether the private or the public good rules. What a strange scene at the pleasure pavilion! The captain is disguised as a drunken reveler, fond of music & inclined to rape; the assassin is disguised as a dancer.

The song the dancer sings is an ancient poem cautioning a prince that his love for a beautiful woman may bring his country to ruin. Love should dwell in the pavilion: Beautiful girls in fine silk dresses, music & drums, & drink are all there to be bought & enjoyed. But pleasure takes too much for granted. Love is impossible without trust. In the city, nobody is who he seems.

The disguised captain frees the disguised assassin, hoping she will lead the army to the secret society. The deception required for this war means that the contesting rulers have to betray their own at the same time they require sacrifice. It is not obvious that there is any common good left. Neither imperial authority nor family can protect oaths. Maybe love exerts such power over men’s souls because the laws are weak. But love is not necessarily reciprocal, so it is no more able to lead to peace than empire or family.

Wind & the blind dancer fall in love in the forest. She knows him by touch: His thighs show he can ride, his arms that he wields the broadsword & the bow; his sangfroid declares his honesty, his face his youth. His breath shows he can hold his drink. That he kills to save her life does not persuade her – she only shows love after he risks his life fighting alongside her.

She points out that he could rape her – having saved her. She had already pointed out that blind girls especially are made for the pleasure pavilion. Wind dares not rape her, who thought nothing of deceiving her to see her bathe. When he realizes she can see him full well, he realizes love is imminent. Now, he is not free anymore.

The story starts in the city, where we see the army barracks with the torture chamber & the pleasure pavilion. Then it moves to the forest. Finally, there is the house of flying daggers. Love belongs in the forest – like the flowers, it is a spontaneous growth of the soul & does not require deception. Strangely enough, all the crimes we see are committed to secure love. Love is a law-breaker. Who want to be loved must tyrannize.

A fine, very dramatic romance