Jet Li’s Hero is my favorite movie, and not just because it’s basically an anime with my favorite kung fu scene. I think something that confuses the Western audience is that the fight scenes are intended to convey the mood of each conflict. In contrast, most fight scenes in other media are intended to express the personalities/attitudes of the combatants (e.g. ruthless, deliberate, patient, or whatever). The easiest examples of this mood-expressing type of fight scene are the water fight and the autumn leaves fight.
The mood here is mourning, sorrow, regret, etc. Neither combatant wants to be here. You can imagine something like this the day after the Christmas Day truces in trench warfare, where soldiers were trying to murder the guys they were playing soccer and laughing with the day before. It would be pretty morose.
In the autumn leaves fight the mood is conveying what it’s like to play social intelligence games with someone who’s far superior in the art of indirection.
The younger woman’s directed passion is frustrated by the masterful misdirection of the more disciplined and experienced matron.
Another good example is the arrows scene. It can be translated literally as the darts of mass opinion, like being on the receiving end of the 5 minutes of hate on social media. But the mood is “us against the world” represented visually, which is the more important translation.
It’s a very gangster message: “Fuck everybody else, we’re doing our thing.”
The final scene is reminiscent of this when Nameless (Jet Li) voluntarily receives the arrows of mass shaming, effectively taking on Jesus’ role as a scapegoat to create the new nation.
Shut up, glosoli.