‘The Grandmaster’ was the opening film of the 63rd Berlin Film Festival. Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Zhang Ziyi walked the red carpet hand in hand as they were welcomed with cheers and applause. Although Leung frequently attended international film festivals, this was his first time at the Berlin Film Festival. At the opening ceremony, the host compared Wong Kar-wai’s movies to women who made people fall for them unknowingly. She even jokingly asked Wong Kar Wai, “If ‘The Grandmaster’ is a woman too, would you get intimate with her or vanish with her?” Wong Kar-wai humorously said, “Both feel pretty exciting.”
The film premiered in Berlin and received a 10 minute applause after the show. Wong Kar-wai cut a special “Berlin version” with 20 differences from the China and Hong Kong version. The film was about 10 minutes shorter. Because some foreign media did not understand the historical backdrop, some reviews said that it “cannot surpass In The Mood For Love“.
The Berlin Film Festival version of ‘The Grandmaster’ mainly added three important scenes and some subtitles that explained the historical background. Some of the subplots with an unclear relationship to the main plot were removed or replaced. The most notable addition that was not in the China and Hong Kong version was how Chang Chen‘s Yi Xiantian and Zhang Ziyi’s Gong Er met and their relationship. After Gong Er saved Yi Xiantian on the train, they later ran into each other at a Hong Kong restaurant named Old Muslim but did not acknowledge each other. Their reunion gave Yi Xiantian the motivation to stay in Hong Kong, which was easier to comprehend for the audience.
Another addition was the rainy night fight scene with Ip Man and Yi Xiantian. The story became more intense and made people’s blood boiled. This scene caught Gong Yutian’s eyes. He praised Ip Man’s kung fu abilities and after asking others he learned that the fighter was the Invincible in Foshan Ip Man. Other addition scenes included a young Bruce Lee staring at Ip Man from the school, Ip Man teaching Bruce Lee martial arts and Ip man’s ferocious fight with Cung Le. Ip Man’s challenge in Hong Kong to Ding Lianshan (Zhao Benshan) was removed.
Tony Leung did not feel that his scenes were removed, the most important was for the audience to accept the pace of the story. “I don’t mind the changes in the different versions, the most important is for the story to make sense.” Although Wong Kar Wai earlier was busy with ‘The Grandmaster‘s promotion, in a short month he was able to make even better changes. The mastery of his craft truly left people speechless.