The last emperor

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
German title The last emperor
Original title The Last Emperor
Country of production Great Britain , France , Italy
original language English , Chinese , Japanese
Publishing year 1987
length Theatrical version: 160 minutes
Long TV version: 219 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Bernardo Bertolucci
script Mark Peploe
Bernardo Bertolucci
production Jeremy Thomas
John Daly
music Ryuichi Sakamoto
David Byrne
Cong Su
camera Vittorio Storaro
cut Gabriella Cristiani

The Last Emperor is a monumental film from 1987. Bernardo Bertolucci filmed the biography of Emperor Puyi of China , who ascended the throne at the age of two, but had to abdicate three years later. A multi-award-winning epic , which won nine Oscars and four Golden Globes in 1988 , was created at original locations in the Forbidden City in Beijing .


The film opens in 1950 after the communists' victory in the civil war and the admission of Puyi , the last emperor of China , to a re-education camp. His life story is told in flashbacks: As a two-year-old he was brought to the Forbidden City in 1908 on the orders of the dying Empress Dowager Cixi , where he was declared emperor. A few years later he was forced to abdicate, but continued to live in the Forbidden City, where he was taught first by Chinese tutors and later by the Scottish teacher Reginald Johnston . Influenced by his new ideas, he tried to carry out reforms , for example to get an overview of the income and expenses of the court and to limit them. His Scottish teacher suspects that the imperial eunuchs are embezzling money and goods, but before Puyi can verify this, the central magazine burns down one night. Puyi now calls the troops of (now republican ) China to help to drive the eunuchs from the court. In 1924, Puyi, for his part, was finally driven out of the Forbidden City by Kuomintang troops and, unable to find a meaningful existence in the outside world, lived initially as a Western-style playboy .

In the 1930s the political situation worsened and in 1937 the incident at the Marco Polo Bridge opened open hostilities between Japan and China. The Japanese occupied Manchuria , home of Puyi's ancestors , as early as 1931 . The Japanese use him against his wife's advice as Emperor of Manchukuo . Gradually he becomes aware that he is a powerless puppet, at the same time he becomes more and more lonely, as Japanese agents first make his wife addicted to opium, then kill her newborn child and finally keep her in an institution against her will. In 1945, Puyi was captured by Soviet soldiers, extradited to the People's Republic of China in 1950 and interned in a communist prison for war criminals. It was only during the “ re-education ” that he found out about the war crimes and the crimes against humanity of the Japanese, such as the human experiments of Unit 731 , the Nanking massacre or the massive sale of opium . During the ten years of his imprisonment, Puyi changed his view of the world and, after his release, lived and worked as a simple gardener . During the Cultural Revolution of 1967 he witnessed the excesses of the “ Red Guards ”, to which the benevolent former director of the re-education camp also fell victim. Later he visits the Forbidden City again , which can now be visited as a museum, and tells the museum caretaker's son about his time as Emperor of China. Shortly afterwards he dies as a simple gardener in the People's Republic of China.


The film was shot between August 1986 and January 1987. Filming locations were Beijing , where the Forbidden City was exclusively available, Dalian , the Imperial Palace in Changchun , Cinecittà in Rome and Salsomaggiore near Parma .

The international crew on the film set consisted of Italians and British (technology, production and equipment) as well as Chinese (equipment, extras, etc.). 10,000 extras in historical Chinese costumes are said to have participated in the coronation scene in the Forbidden City, although only around 1,500 to 2,000 can be seen. Queen Elizabeth II , who was on a state visit at the time, was prevented from visiting the palace due to the shooting. A total of around 19,000 extras were involved in the shooting.

The plane that Puyi later wanted to use to flee is a Lissunow Li-2 .

For the role of Scottish tutor Johnston were Marlon Brando , Sean Connery and John Hurt requested before Peter O'Toole , she took over.

The Chinese violin of the erhu pieces in the film was played by Lu Jian Guo.

The film was originally supposed to be called From Emperor to Citizen and Bertolucci got the basics on the one hand from Puyi's autobiography, on the other hand from his brother Pujie († 1994), who was still alive at the time .

His aim was to tell the story of a man who is transformed from a caterpillar to a butterfly, from a kite to an ordinary citizen. It should be embedded in the events of the 1960s.


  • Roger Ebert , December 9, 1987: This is a strange epic because it is about a completely passive figure. (This is a strange epic because it is about an entirely passive character.) , 4/4 stars.
  • epd Film 12/87, Dietrich Kuhlbrodt : It's not […] about Eurocentric presumption. Bertolucci exudes considerable big-boy charm with his film in order to establish a relationship with the last emperor and the China of the 20th century. He pays attention to signs and signals that could reciprocate his affection. DER LETZTE KAISER is entertaining because it listens and looks, and it is exciting because the result is not certain. Bertolucci did not already know everything beforehand, and that is precisely what brings the great movement into the film, which in turn takes on the movement of a very unusual life. [...] Nothing needs to be asserted, nothing to be proven, if the images become sensual and their content can be experienced. 
  • Heyne Film Yearbook : The development of the cruel child in a golden cage to a young luxury man and finally to a simple citizen Pu Yi in the gardening profession (excellently played by John Lone) is a lesson from fate - as noble and anachronistic as a Ming vase.
  • Lexicon of international film : […] a colorful arc of images between exotic fairy tales and mythically exaggerated tragedy […]. Monumental film shot at original locations; a fascinating parable about the individual under the overwhelming compulsion of historical circumstances. […] - Worth seeing
  • The Washington Post , Desson Howe, December 18, 1987: Politics and pageantry threaten to obscure the narrative at times, but it feels coherent - Emperor Pu Yi was overwhelmed by such things. [...] more than worth seeing. (The politics and pageantry tend to overrun the story at times, but it seems appropriate - Emperor Pu Yi was overwhelmed by such things. [...] more than worth your time.) 


The IMDb has a total of 48 international film awards and 12 nominations as of February 25, 2008. At the 1988 Academy Awards, the film achieved a "clean sweep", winning every nominated category and winning the most important Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director .

Academy Awards 1988

  • Oscar in the category Best Art Direction - Set Decoration for Ferdinando Scarfiotti, Bruno Cesari and Osvaldo Desideri
  • Oscar in the Best Cinematography category for Vittorio Storaro
  • Oscar in the Best Costume Design category for James Acheson
  • Oscar in the Best Director category for Bernardo Bertolucci
  • Oscar in the Best Film Editing category for Gabriella Cristiani
  • Oscar for Best Music, Original Score for Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Byrne and Cong Su
  • Oscar in the Best Picture category for Jeremy Thomas
  • Oscar in the Best Sound category for Bill Rowe and Ivan Sharrock
  • Oscar in the Best Writing category , Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci

Golden Globes 1988

  • Golden Globe in the Best Director - Motion Picture category for Bernardo Bertolucci
  • Golden Globe in the Best Motion Picture - Drama category
  • Golden Globe in the Best Original Score - Motion Picture category for Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Byrne and Cong Su
  • Golden Globe in the Best Screenplay - Motion Picture category for Mark Peploe, Bernardo Bertolucci and Enzo Ungari

BAFTA Awards 1989

  • BAFTA Award in the Best Costume Design category for James Acheson
  • BAFTA Award in the Best Film category for Jeremy Thomas and Bernardo Bertolucci
  • BAFTA Award in the Best Make Up Artist category for Fabrizio Sforza

César 1988

  • César in the Best Foreign Film category for Bernardo Bertolucci

David di Donatello Awards 1988

  • David in the Best Cinematography category for Vittorio Storaro
  • David in the Best Costume Design category for James Acheson and Ugo Pericoli
  • David in the Best Director category for Bernardo Bertolucci
  • David in the Best Editing category for Gabriella Cristiani
  • David in the Best Film category
  • David in the Best Producer category for Jeremy Thomas, Franco Giovale and Joyce Herlihy
  • David in the Best Production Design category for Ferdinando Scarfiotti, Bruno Cesari and Osvaldo Desideri
  • David in the Best Screenplay category for Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci (with others)
  • David in the Best Supporting Actor category for Peter O'Toole

Awards of the Japanese Academy 1989

  • Award of the Japanese Academy in the Best Foreign Language Film category

Grammy Awards 1989

  • Grammy for Best Album of Original Instrumental Background Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television for David Byrne, Cong Su and Ryuichi Sakamoto

Directors Guild of America 1988

  • DGA Award in the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures category for Bernardo Bertolucci

American Cinema Editors 1988

  • Eddie in the Best Edited Feature Film category for Gabriella Cristiani

European Film Awards 1988

  • Special Prize of the Jury "for the cultural and economic achievements" for Bernardo Bertolucci (Special Prize of the Jury "for cultural and economic achievements")

The German Film and Media Assessment FBW in Wiesbaden awarded the film the rating particularly valuable.

further reading

  • Puyi : I was Emperor of China. From Heavenly Son to New Man. The autobiography of the last Chinese emperor . dtv , Munich 2004, ISBN 3-423-20701-9 (OT: Wo-di-qianbansheng ).
  • Fabien S. Gérard: Ombres jaunes . In: Cahiers du cinéma . Paris 1987.
  • Bruce H. Sklarew (Ed.): Bertolucci's the Last Emperor . Wayne State University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8143-2700-1 (English, ).
  • Yosefa Loshitzky, Raya Meyuhas: "Ecstasy of Difference": Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" . In: Cinema Journal . tape 31 , no. 2 . University of Texas Press, 1992, pp. 26-44 , JSTOR : 1225142 (English).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Release certificate for The Last Emperor . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry, November 2009 (PDF; test number: 58 673 V).
  2. Release certificate for The Last Emperor - Director's Cut . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry, November 2005 (PDF; test number: 58 673 V / DVD / UMD).
  3. In the coronation scene, 1,500 to 2,000 extras can be seen: on the upper terrace about 400 extras (one half about 12 rows with 12 people plus flag holders), at the bottom of the square about 1,200 (one half of the square is occupied by 10 rows with 60 people) . 10,000 may denote the number of helpers that were needed on the set to shoot the scene.
  5. ^ Kubiak, Hans Jürgen: The best films of the years 1927-2006 The Oscar films, Schüren Verlag, Marburg, 2007, p. 251
  6. Life Itself: The Last Emperor Movie Review (1987) - Roger Ebert. In: December 9, 1987, accessed December 31, 2014 .
  7. The last emperor. In: November 29, 1987, accessed December 31, 2014 .
  8. The last emperor. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  9. 'The Last Emperor' (PG-13). In: December 18, 1987, accessed December 31, 2014 .
  10. IMDb on the film.