Note: This moment has also been known as “Short Hair”
Mulan has already had a pretty bad day: she’s been humiliated by the matchmaker, her future is uncertain and now…soldiers have ridden into town, led by the sniveling Chi Fu (one of the advisers to the Emperor) and they bring news: the Huns have invaded China! By order of the Emperor, one man from each family must leave to serve in the Imperial Army. Though suffering from some type of illness (or perhaps injury, or both), Mulan’s father steps forward to receive the scroll giving him orders to report to military duty.
Unable to restrain herself, Mulan attempts to intervene and is publicly rebuffed by her father, upsetting things even more. That night, Mulan and her father get into an argument over whether someone should “die for honor” and Mulan’s father snaps “I KNOW my place, it’s time you learned YOURS.” Mulan flees the house in tears and a storm eventually breaks out.
As the music begins, Mulan sits and watches while her parents bid each other good night (Mulan’s mother is visibly upset). There is no dialogue, but as her father blows out the lights, you can see a decision has been made in Mulan’s eyes as she rushes off to the family temple. Jerry Goldsmith uses his full musical talents in this sequence as Mulan prepares for what is essentially a suicide mission: in ancient China, women were strictly forbidden from combat; if Mulan is caught, the sentence will be death.
Despite knowing this, Mulan cannot let her father go and gives her parents a last look as she grabs her father’s orders and leaves to finish her tasks (being observed by the “lucky” cricket that she released during “Reflection”)
The biggest change that must be made is, Mulan’s long hair needs to go. Taking her father’s sword, she hesitates only a moment before cutting most of her tresses away; now she’s passed the point of no return. The next step is to put on her family armor, and by the time she is finished, Mulan is the very image of a young man dressed for war. So complete is the transformation that her horse, Khan, initially doesn’t recognize her.
Mulan leaves, knowing that she may very well never see her home or her family again. In this entire scene not a word is spoken, the music tells us everything we need to know. And speaking of the music, I was surprised to discover that there are actually TWO pieces of music written for this scene. The film version that we all know and recognize is not the original piece that Jerry Goldsmith composed. THAT version is completely orchestral and more traditional Chinese in sound (for lack of a better description), whereas the film version features a synthesizer for most of the sequence (used to great effect I might add). Personally, I enjoy both versions, and if I prefer the synthesizer score, it’s only because it’s the version I’m used to.
This really is my favorite scene in the entire movie, the art, the music, everything combines together and nothing is lacking or overdone.
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