MovieChat Forums > Raise the Red LanternĀ (1991) Discussion > So many loose ends to wrap up...

So many loose ends to wrap up...


i was very disappointed with the ending.

SPOILER ALERT BELOW!


firstly it did not seek to explain how Songlian (4th mistress) lost her mind cos she seemed like she recovered from the shock of seeing the body of Meishan (3rd mistress) and even went on to light red lanterns and play opera records in meishan's room.

secondly, it was very obvious that Songlian was in love with Feipu (the kid who plays the flute and offered her a gift he brought back from Yunnan). that subplot wasn't developed the least bit and just left hanging in the air to the viewers.

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SPOILER ALERT!!


I completely agree with you. I watched this movie for the first time last night, and was stunned that it completely left the viewer hanging. I, too, wonder what caused Songlian to go insane. I know that seeing Meishan's body initially set her off, but after that... who knows! For her to relight the lanterns in both her and Meishan's room (including removing the covers from her lanterns) then to play the opera record in Meishan's room felt like she was trying to get back at the house for murdering Meishan. But to go mad from this?

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I, too, wonder what caused Songlian to go insane


I'm sorry, but have you seen the movie? She went insane because of her whole life. She is young, but with no options in her life and meaningless rules she must obey. After some time spent at master's home, she realizes that the fight between mistresses is pointless, as is her whole life. She clearly states a few times that the 3rd mistress has the doctor, the 2nd wants to please the master...but she, she has no one and therefore no reason to live. She doesn't know what to do with her own life, and consequently, she hurts two other people and they die because of her fault, although that is not her intention.

This is how I understand the movie. I may not be completely correct, but I think it was really clearly why she has gone isane.

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yes yes we all know that cos we have seen the movie.we all know too that she was traumatised from the sight of the body hanging by the neck.

what the poster meant was when songlian lit the room full of lanterns, she looked perfectly normal. not displaying any signs of lunacy whatsoever. then fast forward and u see her twirling around in the courtyards with her arms in the air singing gibberish like a total retard. how do u explain that sudden transition?

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You don't have to look insane to be insane! Or alternatively, you could say that the scene was her last act of "sanity"- breaking the lantern rules, respecting the third wife, and getting revenge on the guards... and after that she had nothing left to be sane about.

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"nothing left to be sane about. "

i can't believe i'm reading this. she can decide when she wants to be sane or insane?

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No. You can see her gradual mental breakdown throughout the film, tempered by her strong intellectual hold on herself. As she becomes more and more immersed in the events, and more and more depressed (her discussions about dying/ghosts) her physical hold on her mental state begins to fail. You can see it happening. Her understanding of the world is intellectual and rational, and as everything that happens to her is *ir*rational, she begins to lose her place.

After she lights the lamps (which I see as a rational reaction to the things that happened,) she no longer seems to have anyone to trust, or any confidence in the world around her. So she retreats into herself.

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Did I watch a different cut of the movie? I didn't see her singing gibberish like a retard. I saw an emotionally fractured young woman who wandered the compound because she had nothing else to do.

She no longer had the will to live, but if she did commit suicide then that means the family won. She tried to take revenge for the Third Wife, only to see the Old Bastard take yet another wife the following year. And is it just me or was the new wife living in the late Third Wife's quarters? If she really did go insane at the end of the movie, I'd guess that was what pushed her over the edge.

What I think is, she's still sane. Severely depressed, but still sane. The Old Bastard husband claimed that she'd gone mad to protect the family traditions; the servants don't bother to think different. (The other two wives know better, but they could care less.) Acting like a madwoman was the only thing she could do to keep living.

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...for Second Mistress's unloved little girl?

No one in that household seems to see her, or to remember that she exists. She has no value to anyone there, including her mother and father. She is a "non-person." Her situation is a direct reflection of the hopelessness of the main character. And nobody notices.

If this is the way girls really grow up in China, how do any of them manage to gain even a fraction of self-esteem?

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In the book, it becomes obvious that Songlian becomes gradually insane. In the movie, however, it could also be seen that the Chen household oversimplifies the situation because they deny reality. They say the adulterous wives from the past committed suicide. Chen tries to tell Songlian that she didn't see what she saw.
Obviously, the family traditions don't permit to kill Songlian for her behavior, so it seems to be their way of coping with the situation: declaring her insane.
And she probably chooses to remain in that role, because there is no other way out for her. For some reason, she does not want to kill herself, she might feel that by doing this, she'd succumb to the cruel system, so she prefers to annoy family and servants by still strutting around.

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After the third mistress died, Songlian showed her respect and love, instead of hate. She must be insane! That's how I saw it anyways - in art the "insane" person is usually the one who has arrived at the epiphany; here her discovery of sisterhood.
There is really nothing to do in that scenario BUT pace back and forth, once you've abandoned the disgusting game.

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Is Songlian really insane? If she was, then she wouldn't be so smart as to use the gramophone record to dupe the servants. A likely interpretation is that Songlian pretends to be mad to make her life more bearable after this.

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A likely interpretation is that Songlian pretends to be mad to make her life more bearable after this.



Yes, I think this is more likely, if you recall earlier in the film Meishan and Songlian have a discussion and the gist of it is "if you fool everyone well enough, then they leave you alone" I think she was playing at insanity.

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indeed, I have read the book, and I found that everything in it was wrapped up rather nicely.

If you havent read the book, I seriously reccomend that you go and read it, as there are numerous translations of it available.

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Well, I think if you passed 1 year being ignored by everybody and being called insane for saying you saw something, I think this wouldn't be good for you.
The master probably never went to her again. The servants probably started treating her badly. And she knows that she can't go out and commit adultery as she saw what her fate would be.
So her only option was to be with herself. Like an autist. At least that was how I saw her, she didn't look like a happy retard that was jumping, drooling, etc. She was just walking around drawned in her own thoughts.

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"..she'd succumb to the cruel system, so she prefers to annoy family and servants by still strutting around."

Am I the only one reminded of the 3rd wife (Meishan) singing here? I mean, if we go along with the idea that Songlian is still (at least somewhat) sane, walking around singing "gibberish" is very reminiscent of the 3rd wife singing opera to annoy Songlian and the master when they were in bed trying to sleep.

And as gerr1271 pointed out "..if you recall earlier in the film Meishan and Songlian have a discussion and the gist of it is "if you fool everyone well enough, then they leave you alone" ""

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I would just like to point out that the subplot of Songlian being in love with Feipu (essentially her step-son) was actually indeed developed and fully at that.

It was pretty much revealed that their unrequited love would never materialize into anything and when realizing this in the gift offering scene, Songlian was pretty heartbroken (hence the drinking and the yelling of "I have no one").

I just rewatched the movie today and noticed these following details:
Songlian started drinking due to the death of her maid (Yan'er). However, she was only tipsy but in no way completely drunk. It was not until after Feipu visited her and tried to offer her that gift that was given to him by some other girl that she got completely wasted.

If you remember, she was pretty angry when she found out that some other girl is showing affection to Feipu by offering him a gift (which he actually accepted!) And then to make matters worse, Feipu joked with her when she refused the gift that he never intended to give that thing to her in the first place but was merely messing with her. In her already depressed state and now jealousy, she tried then to get him to leave. But when he stands up, she suddenly stands up herself and calls out his name as though to actually say/confess something. But that is when he says "I have to go" which was essentially a refusal of her love.

It was then that she fully realized they can't and would never be together (she is married to his father and he would be unwilling to break any of the rules and commit adultery with her). However, the worst part is that he would move on with his life and meet some lovely girl (or girls) and continue to lead a fulfilling life. Whereas she would still be trapped here. Leading a meaningless, friendless life that is filled with rivals and petty rules, vying for the attention of someone whom she does not even love, with no hope, no escape.

That is when she starts drinking heavily. And I think Feipu knew that she was upset because of him breaking her heart because he came by at her door when the other two wives were there trying to force her to sober up, but he merely stared at her door painfully, didn't do anything and then quietly left.

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It was pretty much revealed that their unrequited love would never materialize into anything and when realizing this in the gift offering scene, Songlian was pretty heartbroken (hence the drinking and the yelling of "I have no one").

I just rewatched the movie today and noticed these following details:
Songlian started drinking due to the death of her maid (Yan'er). However, she was only tipsy but in no way completely drunk. It was not until after Feipu visited her and tried to offer her that gift that was given to him by some other girl that she got completely wasted.

If you remember, she was pretty angry when she found out that some other girl is showing affection to Feipu by offering him a gift (which he actually accepted!) And then to make matters worse, Feipu joked with her when she refused the gift that he never intended to give that thing to her in the first place but was merely messing with her. In her already depressed state and now jealousy, she tried then to get him to leave. But when he stands up, she suddenly stands up herself and calls out his name as though to actually say/confess something. But that is when he says "I have to go" which was essentially a refusal of her love.

It was then that she fully realized they can't and would never be together (she is married to his father and he would be unwilling to break any of the rules and commit adultery with her). However, the worst part is that he would move on with his life and meet some lovely girl (or girls) and continue to lead a fulfilling life. Whereas she would still be trapped here. Leading a meaningless, friendless life that is filled with rivals and petty rules, vying for the attention of someone whom she does not even love, with no hope, no escape.

That is when she starts drinking heavily. And I think Feipu knew that she was upset because of him breaking her heart because he came by at her door when the other two wives were there trying to force her to sober up, but he merely stared at her door painfully, didn't do anything and then quietly left.


Excellent explanation. I just had my first viewing of the film and, like the OP, felt that a few subplots were left somewhat ambiguous. But sure enough, answers can be found by dissecting every minute detail, as the above poster did with the "birthday binging" scene. The chosen cinematography, the words, the actions placed in the film all serve a purpose in the storytelling.


Say NO to dubbing. Give IN to subtitles.

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thanks! :) Glad that someone read my take on the scene. I think this is the type of movie that requires analysis of the details. It definitely does not spell everything out in a typical hollywood movie way.

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Wow, I know you wrote this months ago, but having just rewatched the film (first time I saw it was probably 7 or 8 years ago), I just want to say that your explanation damn near moved me to tears! You described their story and their relationship perfectly.

For me, their last scene together just might be the most heartbreaking thing about the whole movie, because like you said, so many things are communicated in it. She tells him to go, then meaningfully calls him by name (like he did to her when they first met) and they share one last look of longing, knowing they can never be together. Breaks my little heart. *head shake*

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Perfect response. They way you explained it made me respect that particular scene even more than I did before.

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As soon as i saw the "execution room" i figured someone would be executed at the end, or at least be about to be. It caught me off guard that it was the third wife though, i figured it would be the fourth (if she developed her relationship with the younger guy) also making it deliciously tragic and ironic, or the second for her scheming.

I thought it was rather weird, even within that kind of society, how they just expected the other wives to just live on their lives after that. I hoped the fifth wife would ask what happened to the third, i wonder what the answer would have been. It's kind of weird how the second wife never got any "punishment" whatsoever, nor the master, but i guess it's meant to make the ending more shocking and touching by breaking conventional cinematic structure.

Also, does anyone have an idea what would happen to the wives if / when the master died? Would they still be kept as some kind of "former concubines", or transfered somewhere else?

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i agree with the subplot about the fourth mistress and the young master, but i had no problem with her going insane





so many movies, so little time

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