Above: Master Wu Wai (on the right) greets the Old Master
Raining in the Mountain was one of two films King Hu shot back to back in Korea. He took full advantage of ancient temples and buildings that had been maintained since there construction to create a beautiful setting of a Buddhist temple. I’m not going to discuss the plot very much for this entry, because there are a few other things I’d like to write about instead. There isn’t as much action in this film as some of King Hu’s others but there is some really interesting commentary on human beings and their attempts at becoming better than themselves. With that in mind I want to explore King Hu’s portrayal of Buddhist monks in this film as well as Master Wu Wai in particular.
Master Wu Wai is introduced as a prominent Buddhist layman and he arrives with an entourage of women. This seems strange and prompts a comment from one of the characters that he is likely an old lecher. However it is quickly shown that he has a reason for doing so. Master Wu Wai later allows the women of his entourage to bathe, while he and a group of monks meditate nearby. The cross cutting between the monks, who are failing to ignore the temptation before them, and the watchful gaze of Master WuWai staring down, taking careful note their lack of resolve, is quite powerful. This simple sequence is one of several that show up throughout the film and seem to be making small statements about the monks. We also see monks engaged in espionage, eavesdropping on important conversations and importing contraband into the temple to satisfy their worldly desires. For a film that has a major plot point revolving around the succession of power, it seems interesting and fitting that Hu took the opportunity to show us that despite striving to become greater, many people are still just that, people, flawed and unable to control their physical wants. This, along with The Valiant Ones before it seems to show that King Hu was beginning to explore deeper and more complex relationships in politics and spirituality than in his previous works.