Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha debuted in 2005. It was directed by Rob Marshall and based on the book with the same name. It is about Chiyo Sakamoto who is sold to the okiya. In the film you see her training to become a real Geisha. She has to dance, know how to walk, how to paint her face and how to seduce men. Once she is trained she is renamed to Sayuri.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautiful film in the sense that the cinematography is stunning.  Everything looks tip top, from the actors to the scenery.

However, if you pay closer attention to the film you will find many flaws. First of all, the main characters, who are Japanese, are portrayed by Chinese actors. Yes, Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh do an amazing job concerning their acting skills. Some Chinese people were offended by this because they see the Geisha as prostitutes. This and the fact that it brought back war memories, and the role Japan played in it, caused that the film was not shown in China.

The Japanese were also offended because of the Chinese casting. The most important roles were given to actors who were not even natives. They do not share the same culture and therefor should not have been chosen in the first place. Just because the film is not made for Japan does not mean that you can alter the truth. The culture was altered and traditions were changed. Hollywood changed the culture and heavily romanticised the story.

This can also be noticed in the way the actors talk. The wealthy Chairman speak nearly perfect English, while the mere Geisha’s have the most terrible accent. It may be an indicator for the level of power but it does not have any proof.