Wáng Dè Shèng Yàn, also known by its English title The Last Supper, is a 2012 film directed by Lu Chuan, notable for City of Life and Death and Kekexili: Mountain Patrol.
The beginning of the movie is narrated by aging Emperor Gaozu, first Chinese emperor of the Han dynasty. In his palace he is haunted by nightmares of his enemy Xiang Yu and his own General Xin. Flashbacks tell the story of how he as the commoner Liu Bang became emperor, but his memories do not explain everything that happened in those years. An important point is how General Xin defected from Xiang Yu and helped Liu Bang defeat him and become emperor.As the emperor becomes more ill, Empress Lü Zhi takes charge, exploiting his paranoia against General Xin, who is ostensibly plotting a rebellion. Liu Bang's unhappy former comrades who helped him gain the empire become embroiled in the empress' court intrigue, even as they try to prevent her from executing General Xin.
The movie is different from the histories at some points. Quite fittingly, as one of its messages is that histories are not always reliable.
The film is notable for its unique use of lighting, all indoor scenes are very dimly lit. This creates a claustrophobic athmosphere and adds to the realism. Bronze Age people didn't have electric lights and had to rely on candles and fires.
Lu Chuan and his crew put a lot of time and money into making the film be as accurate as possible, including costumes and material goods.The production was far from problem free, ending up behind schedule and overrunning its budget. It also appears that Xiang Yu's concubine Yu (his wife in the movie and played by He Dujuan) originally had a lines, all of which were cut from the final film.
This film provides examples of:
- A Father to His Men: Liu Bang is one, and they love him for it. Several of his men are shown to be willing to give up their lives for him ,and vice-versa.
- Artistic Licence History: almost by necessity, as this movie speculates on the Chu-Han contention rather than completely relying on sources that may not be enirely accurate.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: Zhang Liang has to enter Liu Bang's chambers to warn him that Xiang Yu is on his way and will most likely murder him. He catches his friend in the middle of a threeway and not particularly interested in interrupting it.Liu Bang: I'm almost done.
- Cool Helmet and cool armour too. Both Liu Bang and General Xin are given full suits of armour by Xiang Yu when they join his cause. Xiang Yu himself wears a gilded helmet that stands out from the others.
- FaceHeel Turn: General Xin's decision to desert from Xiang Yu's Chu army and join Liu Bang's Han forces. Liu Bang, as emperor, spends much of the movie pondering on why General Xin ever left Xiang Yu.
- Foregone Conclusion: To some extent, if you are familiar with the Chu-Han contention and some of its aftermath. Also averted, as the film delivers its own interpretation of events
- Jerkass: Emperor Gaozu acts like this towards the people who helped him rise to power.
- One-Man Army: averted. Unlike most Chinese historical epics, this film takes a realistic approach to war and fighting. At the Battle of Gaxia, Xiang Yu does not last long against Liu Bang's regulars armed with dagger-axes and bows.
- Really Gets Around: Emperor Gaozu/Liu Bang, before and after his rise to power. He even has a go at one of his concubines when he's practically on his death bed.
- Unreliable Narrator: the story of Liu Bang's rise to power is largely told by himself, but he is clearly not aware of how much help he had.
- Written by the Winners: A central theme in the film: people in power falsify history. Not that it's the last time that happens in China, mind.