The Flowers Of War

2011

Directed by Yimou Zhang – Written by Heng Liu

Starring: Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Xinyi Zhang and Tianyuan Huang

The raping of Nanking, 1937. During the second Sino-Japanese war the Japanese capture the former capital of China and embark on six weeks of atrocity. Mass murder of disarmed soldiers as well as civilians estimated to be up to 300,000 casualties, widespread war rape from which very few were spared and a systematic destroying of files and evidence all occurred. Between two Japanese soldiers there was even a contest to kill 100 people with a sword for which the score was published in the daily paper. As with most history of the like, a few foreigners stayed behind to try and help.

And so to the film.

A western man, played by Christian Bale, poses as a priest to gain refuge during this stain on history. Only there to bury the real priest, John quickly finds himself a lone adult at the Catholic church filled with convent girl students and prostitutes from the nearby brothel. As the Japanese attack he attempts to head the two groups to safety.

Yimou Zhang, director of House of Flying Daggers (2004), does a brilliant job bring Heng Liu’s script to the screen. Sadly though, some people call this a propaganda film; there are groups around who deny this happened and are given the time of day unlike their holocaust denying counterparts. But let us not get bogged down in political idiots.

English, Chinese and Japanese languages are all used in the film, for me definitely a good choice. Cinematography deserves a mention; green and brown hues are used to ground the film militaristically and are only rarely cut with trims of colour. Bale really steps it up a gear, the Batman trilogy he is great in but it takes serious acting chops to produce what he did here.

The story at times does seem I guess predictable, but then the film makers have stayed true to history rather than opting to try and catch the audience off guard.

The best way of recommending this film to you is by telling you that not a single person was speaking when they left the theatre, all reflecting on what they had just seen.

8/10

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