To create a really good and powerful movie is not an easy task for many directors. A number of factors have to be taken into consideration as well as a variety of techniques should be used to send a proper message to the viewer. Ang Lee is one of the most outstanding directors in the world of Hollywood.
Though he is a Chinese director, his roots do not prevent him from making amazing movies and developing a number of captivating social issues like human rights, relations between genders, or moral standards. Among the variety of creative works offered by Ang Lee, it is not always possible to define the most powerful and interesting movies. Each Lee’s work is a unique collection of ideas, thoughts, plays of actors, and camera movements which attract people’s attention. Talking about human rights and the challenges people face while proving these rights, such movies like Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, and Hulk may be considered. In this paper, the main purpose is to be able to give a clear and informative answer to the following question. How does Ang Lees show the theme of human rights in his Hulk, Brokeback Mountain, and Sense and Sensibility?
“When Ang Lee heard his name read as the winner of the “Best Director” award [for Brokeback Mountain], he stood up and hugged his wife, smiled broadly, and shook hands with one of the other stars of the movie” (Mills 13). This is one of the most expected reactions from those who are lucky to be recognized as the best in the chosen sphere of business.
It was not his first award won, still, it was rather provocative theme to develop in a movie, and Lee did not expect to gain such huge recognition at the end. Within a short period of time, Ang Lee becomes of the most influential figures in Hollywood industry, and his works are recognized all over the whole word. Due to the chosen style of perfectionist, this Taiwan-born director gained the fame of the “softest-spoken control freak in the film business” (Hays), this is why it is always interesting and challenging to observe another work developed by Ang Lee and enjoy the variety of topics developed. This director does not try to hurt somebody’s feelings or prove his correctness. All he tries to do is to choose the best methods and approaches and make the chosen issue clear for people.
In fact, his director’s career is one of the richest in the current history of Hollywood. Lee brought a number of Chinese aspects to Hollywood movies. However, these were his achievements in his native country that made his recognizable and professional in the movie industry. He made a decision to develop ideas gradually paying more attention to his roots, then to his country’s traditions, and then to the ideas offered by other nations. He began his career investigating various sides of Taiwan and Chinese cultures, and his first movies which are Father Knows Best and Eat Drink Man Woman demonstrate how many-sided personality Ang Lee is (Hays). After his tremendous success in Taiwan, he made one of the most significant decisions in this life – to arrive to Hollywood and conquer the already developed world of cinema. Lee’s possibilities to underline the essence seem to be a powerful characteristic. His passion to movies overwhelmed him when he was on his native land.
In spite of the fact that his family wanted to see him as a professor at the university, Lee was so involved into studying drama so that he made a decision to go to the United States of America and get a degree in theater. It took more than 10 years for Ang Lee to justify his choice and demonstrate successful achievements in the sphere chosen.
The idea of human rights is interesting for people from different spheres of life. However, the film industry is the sphere where people are free to evaluate their rights considering various situations, consequences, and outcomes. “Human rights are timeless, unchanging, or absolute; any list or conception of human rights – and the idea of human rights itself – is historically specific and contingent” (Donnelly 1). The evaluation of all these factors is hard to develop within one movie, however, the attempts of Ang Lee are amazing and seem to be rather successful. Brokeback Mountain is the story that touches upon the beginning of the 1960s and people’s inabilities to demonstrate their interests and make use of their rights; the events of Sense and Sensibility are developed during the neo-Classical era where gender inequality influenced considerably human rights; and Hulk is all about the 1990s and a variety of opportunities available for people. Sense and Sensibility is one of the most recognizable works created by Ang Lee.
It is hard to imagine how it is possible for a Chinese director succeed in making a movie that is based on a British story about neo-Classical England and is distributed by an American company. However, Lee proved that his abilities are worth attention and tried to develop as many captivating issues inherent to human life as possible. Sense and Sensibility is the story that helps to comprehend a true nature of human rights as well as the idea of women’s dependence on the conditions they have to live under. “Imagine how that is compounded when on has no hope, no choice of any occupation whatsoever” (Sense and Sensibility). Ang Lee cannot agree with an idea that people were deprived of making decisions independently and following their wishes or even instincts not long time ago. All they could do is to believe in something good and trust their lives into destiny’s hands. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie that helps to comprehend better the idea of human rights and the duties which have to be performed by people under certain conditions is the one when Elinor and Edward have to say good bye and neglect their feeling just to meet the requirements which have been already set by society.
The characters realize that their feelings mean nothing in comparison to their positions, statuses, and families. Their rights are diminished considerably, and the director tries to pay attention to each detail in the scene to explain how terrible and unfair the conditions could be. An absolutely other aspect of human rights has been developed in Lee’s Hulk.
Hulk is the first movie directed by Ang Lee in Hollywood where he demonstrates his skills in violating human rights and making science the source of disaster, pain, and panic. In this movie, Lee defines human rights as something can be easily broken, neglected, and forgotten. People are not strong enough to accept the truth as it is; they are weak in some sense because they try to meet all the standards set by society. “You and I have never had a chance to get to know each other properly” (Hulk). One of the characters prefers to blame destiny and neglect other people’s rights just to meet personal demands. The idea to violate any human right possible is rather provocative and repulsive. However, Lee is not afraid to underline such facts and prove that they still exist in our everyday life, and people do not find it necessary to improve the conditions.
The scene when Bruce Banner and his father, David Banner, talk about the correctness of the life and the rights which are inherent to people deserves certain attention. With the help of this conversation, Ang Lee tries to explain what he actually thinks about human rights and people’s possibilities. David admits that he gave the life to his son, so, he has the right to take it back. There is no other way but be dependent on the circumstances, on other people, their wishes, and interests. There is not right to follow personal wishes because there are already a number of rules to be followed. In spite of the fact that Bruce realizes that he does not corresponds the standards set by society, he tries to explain that he should be provided with a chance to survive and be understood by people around. He does not want to give up and does want to evaluate his situation. However, the rights he has are not as powerful and effective as they should be, this is why all he has to do is to obey other people’s words and orders.
Such violation of rights is rude still it is real because the conditions under which people have to live are so similar to those described in the movie. Talking about human rights and people’s numerous opportunities to protect them, Lee’s movie Brokeback Mountain has to be mentioned. The idea of Brokeback Mountain is not only about some general human rights; it is a story that protects and evaluates gay rights and challenges which have to be overlooked. Lee succeeds in explaining that, “gays don’t want favoritism, ‘special rights’, or even to be granted ‘minority status’” (Neff 328).
All they want is to enjoy their lives and their possible happiness. People around should not take care of the essence of such kinds of relations; gays are also people who should have the same human rights. Gay people face a number of difficulties in their lives, and people around do not want to assist them with understanding but, vice versa, with discontents, defiance, and shame.
However, Lee introduces a good point to believe in: gay people also like to develop their fears on their own: “You ever get the feelin’… when you’re in town and someone looks at you all suspicious, like he knows? And then you go out on the pavement and everyone looks like they know too?” (Brokeback Mountain). The idea of human rights depends on how people are ready to defend their rights and prove the correctness of their choice. Some interesting details which may demonstrate how skillfully Lee describes human rights are observed when Jack visits Ennis in the town. Their meeting begins with ordinary words which express how happy they are to see each other; male embracing demonstrates how good their relations are. All these actions are made so that any person could see them and tell nothing. However, in a second, they change their location and hide so no one could see how passionate their kisses could be.
They are able to define the line when they have rights to demonstrate their feelings, and when it is wrong to make these feelings noticeable. True and thoughtful, cruel and real, sensitive and prudent actions of the main characters are perfectly described by the director to deliver the main message to viewers – everyone has the right to demonstrate personal interests as well as everyone have the right to not understand other people’s choice. Each of the above-mentioned movies turns out to be a powerful attempt to prove that society makes a person choose between the standards set and personal wishes and interests: in Hulk, Lee proves that society should respect the decision made by a person as well as his rights by means of hard violation of these rights; in Sense and Sensibility, people are tied by social prejudice and forget about the main idea of human rights as well as gender equalities and relations; and in Brokeback Mountain, Lee focuses on gay rights and people’s inabilities to accept such people the way they are. In fact, a person is free and able to make decisions independently.
If something goes wrong, it is not really important to blame society and start hiding behind human rights. It is much more important to stand up, proclaim personal rights, and make all people around accept everything you want to believe in and follow the rights which are of human nature. This is the main message of Ang Lee, and this is the answer to the question posed on how he discloses the theme of human rights in his movie: a person should believe in everything he/she wants to live and strive for before start evaluating human rights, their pros and cons.
Brokeback Mountain. Dir.
Ang Lee. Perfs. Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, and Anne Hathway. Paramount Pictures, 2005. Film. Donnelly, Jack. Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.
Hays, Jeffrey. “Zhang Yimou and Ang Lee.” Facts and Details. 2008.
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Eric Bana, Jennifer Connely, and Sam Elliott. Universal Pictures, 2003. Film. Mills, Clifford. Ang Lee.
New York, NY: Infobase Publishing, 2009. Neff, Alan. Movies, Movie Stars, and Me. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2008. Sense and Sensibility. Dir.
Ang Lee. Perfs. Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant. Columbia Pictures, 1995.