[Movie] Raining in the Mountain (1979)

  • Original Title: 空山靈雨
  • Directed by: King Hu (胡金銓)
  • Cast: Hsu Feng, Tung Lin, Sun Yueh

“Raining in the Mountain” is a film that you can not see in general. The plot itself is simple. There are two big themes. First, the elderly abbot of the big Buddhist monastery becomes ill and looks for a successor. An ambitious esquire and a corrupt General arrive at the temple to steal a priceless handwritten scroll (大乘起信论) by Tripitaka. Two Events are intertwined when two groups are joined with a different senior disciple. The situation becomes complicated when a convicted man comes to the monastery to seek a peaceful life.

The film is not known well in the Western world, but it is regarded as the masterpiece of a Taiwanese director King Hu and picked as a hidden gem by many critics. Even though the movie might be categorized as a Kungfu (martial arts) action film, the movie depicts deeper issues. The fighting scenes are sparse and not serious as you might expect from the martial arts genre films.

Everyone is fighting for power and money. Senior monks seek the position of a higher rank. A general and an esquire seeks the scroll for worldly reasons – money -. With the arrival of a falsely convicted man, everyone is thrown into the entangled web of betrayals and murders. But the message is clear, the true value of the scroll is in its meaning, not in the worldly price.

It is surprising how King Hu combines the events into a whole without losing the tension. The plot is not consistent, the fighting is not spectacular, and the actings seem too exaggerated. But you are not distracted and follow the main story through the 2hr running time. It might be the way how the film shows the temple and the mountain around it.

[Note] The movie is shot at the Haeinsa (해인사, 海印寺) Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage – https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/737/ – , in South Korea.

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