SINGING BEHIND THE SCREENSChina around the year 1800. After his historical drama, IL MESTIERE DELLE ARMI (PROFESSION OF ARMS), Ermanno Olmis latest film transports us to the Far East. The heroine of this lush adventure story is a widow named Ching, a kind of Chinese pirate queen. For many years, her husband, Admiral Ching, was commander of a pirate fleet paid by a joint-stock company to terrorise the South China Sea. However, following her husbands promotion to supreme chief of the imperial stables, vengeful members of the joint-stock company had him poisoned for what they saw as betrayal.
On her husbands death, his widow rallies the pirates on her side and has herself installed as her husbands successor. Under her command, the plunder and pillage continues as usual. Then, a new emperor, Kai-King, ascends the throne; he issues a new edict condemning the pirates looting and making it punishable by death. Ninety days later, a battle breaks out between the Emperors ships and the pirates during which the Emperors fleet is decimated.
Kai-King sends out another squadron. Uncertain how things will turn out, however, he delays his attack. The two enemies parry each other for a long time, biding their time. And then, one day, the pirates suddenly notice colourful paper kites rising from the imperial fleet and floating towards the pirate ships. The procedure is repeated, night after night, until widow Ching begins to comprehend the meaning of these signals. Put together, the characters on the kites told the fable of the fox and the dragon, in which a message for the widow is concealed