Nineteen-year-old Songlian (Gong Li) is facing a personal crossroads at the start of Zhang Yimou’s 1991 film Raise the Red Lantern. A university student in 1920s China, she’s been forced to leave school as a result of her father’s recent death and her family’s subsequent financial difficulties. With precious few options available to her, she’s decided to get married, and as far as she’s concerned, she may as well marry for money. “Marry a rich man and you’ll only be his concubine,” her stepmother warns her, but Songlian’s mind is made up. “Let me be a concubine. Isn’t that a woman’s fate?” she asks stoically — just before a single teardrop runs down her cheek.