For those of you who have not heard of Nirvana in Fire, it’s a 2015 historical drama from China that aired from September 19th to October 15th on Dragon TV. The drama is an adaptation of a popular Internet novel by the same name, written by Hai Yan. The narrative is set during the 4th century during a war between the feudal Northern Wei and Southern Liang dynasties. It depicts the revenge story of a young high-ranking military officer, whose father’s entire army was framed and destroyed by a political rival. A massive hit in China, the drama also drew in a huge base of international viewers.
Although the epic story is centered on the notion of revenge and politics, the real heart of Nirvana in Fire lies in its portrayal of friendship, where it highlights the intense brotherhood and camaraderie between the characters. It is the kind of brotherhood that is so fiercely strong and unwavering, that one would rather face death than betray friendship. The depiction of loyalty, friendship, and love is so incredibly moving, that to describe it is beyond words. It may seem foolish to put others’ lives above one’s own, but it is actually this deep friendship and devotion that becomes a valued critical advantage for the characters over their enemies.
The drama itself is an intelligent storytelling, in that of its writing and characters. There are no dense characters, and everyone’s thoughts and acts are realistically rational, without the spontaneous spouts of stupidity that appear far too often in many dramas. Nirvana in Fire is like watching a live chess game unfold before your eyes, where you see the characters trying to outmaneuver each other in the political realm. Every scene, action and line spoken is critical to the story, which is why it keeps viewers on edge, wondering who will obtain the first checkmate. Every little detail is significant, and honestly, the utter brilliance of the drama’s plotline blew my mind away on several occasions. Sometimes it even moved too quickly for my brain to comprehend.
The high production value of Nirvana in Fire is clearly evident. The set designs, costumes and cinematography are simply outstanding. Every shot is breathtakingly beautiful, however, you would need to watch the drama yourself to truly appreciate the amount of detail the production employed to achieve such elegance and grandeur in every scene. Even the fighting scenes are well choreographed and artistically portrayed.
Hu Ge’s character as Lin Shu/Mei Changsu was no doubt the emotional heartbeat and core of Nirvana in Fire. His character is crucial to the storyline, and the expectations of his performance could not be anything less than phenomenal. Hu Ge did not disappoint, doing an amazing job delivering this role. Lin Shu/Mei Changsu was highly complex and required someone with an adept acting ability to portray in a nuanced manner. The actor portrayed all the extremes of his character magnificently, covering everything from kindness, sorrow, longing and tenderness, to slyness, mischievousness, deceitfulness, and ruthlessness. I have always been a fan of Hu Ge, and I must say this is probably his best performance to date—everything from mannerisms to body language was perfect. He completely embodied Lin Shu/Mei Changsu, who is sickly and weak, but possesses the strong determination to exact revenge.
Besides Hu Ge, the acting performance of the entire cast was also absolutely fantastic. Everyone from the veterans to the young actors portrayed their characters so wonderfully. Therefore, I also have to give a special and honorable mention to Wang Kai, who played Prince Jing. He is unmistakably the breakout star of the year. Despite being an actor for the past 10 years, 2015 was definitely his year, and I am happy to see that he is finally getting the recognition he deserves for his talents. It has additionally been an amazing year for Hu Ge as well, with his three hit dramas: Nirvana in Fire, The Disguiser, and Good Times. I am certain the cast and the drama will be reaping all the year-end awards this year.
Nirvana in Fire is truly a masterpiece. It is what all dramas should aspire to be. Everything about Nirvana in Fire is top notch in all aspects: acting, writing, cinematography, and music. Although a 54 episode drama, the fast pace of the drama makes it not feel long at all. As someone who is not really a fan of historical dramas (especially when it is politically focused with very little romance), I would still consider it a must watch! That says quite a lot, doesn’t it? With all the rage these days that is associated with Nirvana in Fire, I can say without a doubt that it is rightfully and completely deserving of all its hype. This is probably one of the best Asian dramas I have watched in the past decade. If you are not interested in anything else, just watch it for the “bromance” and you will not regret it. Also I need to mention that the OST was sung by the main actors of the drama! What a talented bunch!