This is an incredibly humane film. After but 15 minutes into the film, you already feel like you've known the characters for a long time. You know what they feel, you know how they feel, and, more importantly, they feel so real. You just forget you are watching a movie. There are so many films that, no matter how much I love them (the Lord of the Rings, Sin City, Star Wars), no matter how much I empathise with their characters, well, I still know it's a film I'm watching. Not with this film. I kept feeling like I was in the Yunnan mountains walking by the characters, or like I was peeping through one of those ornate wooden windows and eavesdropping on their conversation. Judge Feng, the main character, is an old, humane judge, settling small disputes in the forlorn minority hamlets of the Yunnan mountains. Although he's there as the representative of an autocracy, he's incredibly Solomonic in his rulings, and greatly liked by the inhabitants of the mountain hamlets. Characters don't talk much, but you understand a lot. The best scene is when the judge and her aide talk whilst she's turning her back to him and washing a shirt. 'Your whole life can be summed up the time it takes to wash a shirt,' they say. Well, indeed so.
A great film about man's fate. Probably one of the best I've ever seen. Highly recommended.