Film / Green Snake

Green Snake (青蛇) is a Hong Kong movie starring Maggie Cheung and Joey Wong, directed by Tsui Hark and released in 1993. It is based on the eponymous novel by Lilian Lee, itself based on a famous Chinese folk tale.

Green Snake and White Snake are two female serpent-spirits. Aged 500 and 1000 years respectively, they have trained for centuries in order to take up a human appearance and eventually become fully human. This would raise their status on the karmic scale and bring them closer to the Enlightenment promised by Buddha to all living beings.

White Snake, in her guise as a beautiful young maiden, seduces a scholar and intends to bear his child in order to complete her passage in the human realm. Her young sister Green Snake isn't nearly as good, and occasionally allows her serpent nature to slip through—she still has a taste for bugs and sometimes finds crawling on the floor easier than walking. Both need to hide from a fanatical exorcist who considers shapeshifting creatures to be an offense to the natural order.

Contains examples of:

  • Downer Ending: In the end, White Snake and all the other Buddhists die in the battle between Fahai and the snakes, the scholar is murdered, their child is orphaned, Green Snake losses her friends, and Fahai is forced to life with the consequences of his decisions.
  • Dumbass Hasa Point: In numerous occasions, including:
    • The scholar isn't sharp to realize that his lover is a supernatural being for most of the movie, but when Fahai explained the situation to him and tried to forced him out of it, the scholar insisted there's nothing wrong in what he's doing, noting that White Snake IS a good wife to him, and that Fahai is using religion to take decisions that aren't his to make.
    • Green Snake isn't very skilled or motivated to become a true human, but after all the crap that she has to witness and pass for, she killed the Scholar in anger. When Fahai tried to chastise her for her murder, she angrily retorts that it is all his fault, since that in his refusal to see any good in any supernatural being that he meets, he provoked all the events in the movie and the ultimate tragedy that they all had to pass. Although disgusted, Fahai has no choice but to sadly concede to her point (which is even more painfully to him to take given that Buddha HIMSELF tried to warn him about the consequences of his prejudices).
    • The Taoist might be the most clumsy demon hunter in the planet, but his knowledge over the beings that he's dealing with is accurate.
  • Evil Plan: Fahai is on a mission to track down shapeshifting creatures and kill them.
  • Fantastic Racism: ANY proposition to Fa-Hai the monk that love between humans and demons may be pure and decent WILL fall on deaf ears.
  • God Is Good: Buddha disapproves of Fahai's supernatural creature hunting and instead wants all creatures to ascend the karmic scales and achieve Enlightenment.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The exorcist finally realizes the errors of his ways. Sadly, it happens too late to change anything.
  • Interspecies Romance: White Snake and the scholar.
  • Lawful Stupid: Fahai claims that he is doing what he is doing in sake for the celestial rules of the universe, but as the film shows for the beginning even Buddha is disgusted by his actions.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: For all his antics and bad luck, the Taoist IS a knowledgeable demon hunter and proves to be capable to exploit weaknesses. It's too bad that he insists in pick a fight against opponents far smarter and more powerful than he is).
  • Shapeshifting Lover: White Snake. The story belongs to an entire genre of Chinese folk tales that depict love affairs between a man and a shapeshifting creature (usually a fox or a snake) who has assumed the guise of a beautiful woman. Unusually, she's not a pure evil temptress out to eat his essence.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Not so much sympathetic per se, but in comparison with Fahai, the Taoist demon hunter is a pathetic Butt-Monkey whose attempts to fight off the protagonists only results in devastating amount of pain to him.
  • Misanthrope Supreme: Fahai looks down upon humans and doesn't consider himself one, as indicated by the opening scene, showing humans with hideous deformed faces. Disgusted, he mutters "humans."
  • Snakes Are Sexy: White Snake secures her marriage by seducing the scholar.
    • When the sisters intertwine like the snakes they are, the effect is (unsurprisingly) quite erotic.
  • Stubborn Mule: Fahai is incapable of seeing the injustice of his actions, despite everyone else (including Buddha) talking him out of it.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Buddha teaches Fahai early in the story that his prejudices against demons goes against the celestial rules that he tries to pass to others. He soon forget his lesson, and tries to force the scholar to become a Buddhist and separate him from white snake. Everybody pays for that.
    • Green Snake trying to prove that Fahai isn't as pure than he claims? She succeeds in proving her point.
    • How many times will the taotist try to fight the protagonists until he learns that the only thing that he will get from them is his ass handed to him?
  • The Punishment Is the Crime: Fahai accidently ruins everyone's lives (including his own) and is forced to life with the guilty over his actions.
  • To Become Human: Both sisters' ambition; not to be human per say but because humans are closer to Enlightenment then snakes.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: Fa-Hai is the definitive Eastern perpetrator of this trope. White Snake was doing nobody harm as a scholar's wife and yet she's high on his hit list.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Dare to kidnap the Scholar from White Snake, and she and her friend will unleash the forces of the nature upon your ass.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The exorcist considers himself a defender of the natural order.