(Above, the Scholar, He, meets an apparition who will later become his bride)
Legend of the Mountain was shot back to back with King Hu’s other film, Raining in the Mountain. It was also filmed in Korea, once again taking advantage of well maintained historical temples.
As a whole I feel that Legend of the Mountain has issues with storytelling. It is meant to be a ghost story but it is overly long and meandering. The elements that are meant to create feelings of tension and suspense suffer when the pacing is so slow. Despite these pacing issues I think that there are some interesting elements in the story and the effects used for the film.
True to form, Hu continues his rich tradition of experimentation with this film. It is most obvious in his constant use of music as an intoxicating and musical force, as well as in the battle between the monks and the evil spirits. Diegetic sound is given a special place within the story, from the flute playing of Cloud to her later performance on the drums, music is shown to be magical and capable of spell casting. Hu reinforces this by using camera cuts, editing and strange angles and effects to show the scholar, He, becoming enthralled by the music as it’s being played. The monks also employ music as a weapon, at one point in the climatic battle towards the end of the film they make use of a holy drum.
In addition to the experimentation with using music and trying to make it seem magical, Hu returns to an old tactic to create some new special effects. He reverses his film in order to create wonderful smoke effects and this reversal of the smoke as it coalesces ends in a fireworks explosion and the appearance of one of the monks to battle the ghosts. Hu seemed to use a lot of fireworks in this film, which was an interesting change from his previous works.
Overall while there are some good bits of Legend of the Mountain, I feel like Hu’s script needed a lot more work and also could have used some cutting to keep the story suspenseful. It was good to see the continued experiments but as a whole I think this was one of Hu’s weaker films.