Dissonance Rising: Subversive Sound in Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern

Jacqueline Loeb


This article presents an analysis of visual-acoustic dissonance in Raise The Red Lantern (Dà Hóng Dēnglóng Gāogāo Guà, Zhang Yimou, 1991). Drawing upon Michel Foucault's discussion of the Panopticon, this study argues that the camera in this film represents a panoptic entity whose subversion can only be achieved by means outside the visual economy. Sound is that means; the aural regime works consistently to unhinge the balance of the optical machinery on both a thematic and cinematographic level. By coding the optical as a totalising and oppressive force, and subverting that force through various forms of visual-acoustic dissonance, Raise The Red Lantern unseats the traditionally dominant camera-image dyad, and presents a powerful rejection of the camera as the only life-giving force in an artistic medium that so privileges the visual.


Zhang Yimou; Raise the Red Lantern; Foucault

Full Text: PDF

Go to Edinburgh University Press