Bioethics Blogs

THE ASSASSIN AND BIOETHICS: Death and Destruction vs. Peonies and Silk

The Assassin was one of  the three opening night films at the 2015 Mill Valley Film Festival. Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao Hsien is no stranger to the Cannes festival awards. This film won him the Cannes 2015 Best Director. Attraction to the screen narratives of ‘assassins’ raises clear bioethical concern during pervasive aggression at home and abroad. The Assassin differs from others in its genre. It does not titillate with the brutality of cold blooded murder. Instead, The Assassin may demonstrate a filmic antidote for the desensitization of screen violence.

The original assassins are thought, by some, to have been mercenaries, in Persia, from the sect of Shia Islam, in the period between the 9th and 10th century. This sect worked against the Sunni Islam who controlled that empire. Assassins were tools of barons who held no independent army.

Though set in the Chinese context, and created by a man, The Assassin has a profoundly feminist sensibility. The assassin of this film’s interest is a woman born in a ninth century imperial court. It is a profoundly feminist approach to story telling. Her mother rejects imperial control and escapes, knowing the action will likely cost her life and that of her daughter. Before her death, the fleeing mother arranges her daughter’s care by an aunt and uncle. The imperial powers eventually wish to conquer the geographical region where the child has been fostered, again risking her death. For the child’s protection her surrogate parents place her in the care of a ‘nun.’ The Nun’s machinations train the child as an assassin.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.