Lee Ang described the movie as a dream set in ancient China. This movie definitely is not just a great swordfighting movie. It's not just another genre exercise
. Like all the best movies, it transcends its genre.
It's a fairytale, a fantasy, a parable steeped in dream symbolism about self-actualisation of the Maiden, and the externalisation of her conflicts with the Mother and the Crone, the other 2 aspects of the Triple Goddess.
It is about the sexual awakening of the Maiden, which starts with the stealing of the Sword from the father figure - an act of emasculation. It's a new Electra myth, with a very heavy feminist slant.
Swordfighting movies have always been fantasies. Except, in the hands of a master director like Lee Ang, the fantasy has the qualities of a lucid dream.