Chloe Zhao explains the oriental philosophy behind “Eternals”


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Chinese viewers may not have the chance to see the Chloe Zhao-directed Marvel movie “Eternals” in theaters due to China’s thorny relationship with the director, but the mix of Eastern and Western ideas of the film. The film nevertheless won over some Chinese viewers.

Many critics on the social media platform Douban who have seen the film – presumably through illicit means – have commented on how thrilled they are to identify with what they feel as Chinese elements buried in the show. typical of Marvel superheroes. One wrote, “Chloe Zhao is truly a Chinese to her bones – in the end, she even pays homage to the Five Finger Mountain and Ne Zha! referring to a well-known place and character from Chinese mythology.

The director of “Nomadland” tells Variety that she sought to include elements of Eastern philosophy in “Eternals”, focusing on Taoist principles such as the “virtue of inaction”, to act in harmony with nature and to strike a balance between the yin and yang.

“In our society, in the stories we tell about ourselves, we often emphasize and celebrate masculine strength – the strength to constantly act, to win, to innovate and to exert ourselves. In ‘Eternals’ we wanted to explore the feminine strength in each of us – the strength that comes from vulnerability, love, forgiveness, and ‘action without action,’ “Zhao said.

“All of the characters in ‘Eternals’ try to find harmony between their male and female sides, the ‘yin’ and ‘yang’, and it is only when they find the balance that they become whole.” , she explained.

The director referred, for example, to how, at the film’s climax, Eternals Sersi (Gemma Chan) and Ikaris (Richard Madden) were, despite their opposing ideologies, able to “choose not to act and embrace vulnerability and love “.

“Being able to have those moments in a superhero movie was deeply meaningful to me,” Zhao said.

When developing the story, Zhao wanted to challenge ideas about absolute good and evil by adding more nuance to the relationship between the Eternals and the Deviants, the latter being seen as a kind of ecological allegory representing the Apex predators exterminated by humans over the centuries so that humanity can flourish.

“Unlike classic Western representations of demons, demons in Eastern religions are often powerful ancient spirits of nature. Instead of exterminating them, we should recognize them and appease them, ”Zhao explained. “Absolute evil does not exist. Only the energies that need to be redirected with understanding and compassion.

While Chinese viewers have gone so far as to read the film as a modern take on the classic 16th century text “Journey to the West,” comparing the Eternals to the epic main character Sun Wukong, the iconic immortal monkey king charged to protect a monk. on his pilgrimage, the perceived parallels were not active choices, Zhao explains.

“‘Journey to the West’ was a big part of my childhood and Sun Wukong is one of my favorite literary characters of all time, but they weren’t direct influences for me for ‘Eternals’,” Zhao explains. She admitted, however, that perhaps “some ideas have crept in unconsciously.”

Disney revealed last week that “Eternals” will debut on the Disney Plus streaming platform on January 12. The film was released in the United States on November 5, raising $ 71 million in its opening weekend. It has so far grossed $ 395 million worldwide.

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