“An action movie about inaction”

Introduction to “Ashes of Time”

Ashes of Time is a 1994 film directed by Wong Kar Wai and is loosely based on Jin Yong’s novel “The Eagle-Shooting Heroes” with three central characters taken from the novel but with their characteristics unchanged. The film casts a number of notable Hong Kong actors and actresses such as Leslie Cheung as Ouyang Feng, Maggie Cheung as Ouyang Feng’s wife, Tony Leung as the Blind Swordsman, Jacky Cheung as Hung Chi, Kar-Fai as Huang Yao-Shi and Charlie Yeung as a young peasant girl.

“Ashes of Time” has had its fair share of ups and downs as a film. It held great expectations before it’s release  on the big screen but when it came out it was a box office flop and was highly critisized by its viewers. However the film had garnered numerous awards for Wong Kar Wai and his crew including Best Picture, Best Director and Best screenplay at the 1st Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards as well as Best Cinematography,Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design at the 14th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards.

“Ashes of Time” is filmed in a unique way such that it is a over-arching plot intertwined with a few stories with Ouyang Feng as the main character through out the stories. As such, time is very irrelevant in the film as it jumps from time to time however what gives the film its overall continuity and expression as a film is its atmosphere and emotions that the characters give out throughout these interconnected stories.



What really amazes me for this film is its fluent shots and the liquidity in its scenes which makes it very engaging and smooth flowing.

The choreography of the movements are all fluidly executed by the casts and the visuals are further enhanced by the camera angles that were normally positioned either vertically above the or below the character to give a side profile view of the character as though the viewers are taking a peek of the characters and are able to further appreciate the swift and smooth movements they display.

Another key feature of the visuals used in the film is the use of vibrant and contrasting colors. Every shot of the film is like a beautifully taken photograph with a clear contrast of colors and dense saturation. Wong Kar Wai had admitted that the film was heavily influenced by the works of Akira Kurosawa, who was one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema and who was highly praised in his mastery of visuals.


action sequences

Although ” Ashes of Time” is often deemed by the ignorant as a action or martial arts film, it is not anything about swordplay or martial arts although they do exist in the film. It is about the underlying meaning of the execution of these highly choreographed moves by Sammo Hung that are shot in slow motion then played at normal speed, resulting in blurry and inscrutable fighting sequences. Wong Kar Wai turns these physical sword fights into dream-like abstracts, a surreal way of trying to find out what is going on with the characters when it actually makes it even more complex and unclear.


” Ashes of Time” may require a few screenings for some to comprehend some parts of the film however when the meanings of the film finally come to light, it is actually a beautifully constructed film with deep underlying meaning of inaction caused by the selfishness of the main character.


Roger Ebert, 2008. Ashes of Time Redux. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/ashes-of-time-redux-2008

LoveHkFilms.com| Ashes of Time [online] Available at: http://www.lovehkfilm.com/reviews/ashes_of_time.htm

Moinllieon, 2007. Ashes of Time [online] Available at: http://www.spcnet.tv/Movies/Ashes-of-Time-review-r1533.html#.UceK2utICpQ

Michael Dequina, 2003. Ashes of Time [online] Available at: http://www.filmthreat.com/reviews/3343/


One thought on “Ashes of Time ( 1994) – Wong Kar Wai

  1. Hi Jason

    I think you might want to include how Wong Kar Wai Influences other film directors, who influences him and the growth of Wong Kar Wai. how does this film affected his other films his progressions any similarity between this film and his latest films. I guess you focus to much on the Aesthetics of the film. You are missing the cultural and historical significance of his works. Ashes of Times also have a re edited cut so what is the differences ? Why did Wong Kar Wai decided to recut another verison.

    Keng Hao

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