Hi everyone! I’m back today with my first Chinese movie review! Honestly, I have watched quite a few Chinese movies over the past couple of months however none of them seemed worthy/inspiring enough to write a review on. This, on the other hand, is a true exception, and must be given justice for its beauty, sophistication and epic storyline.
Before we begin….SPOILER ALERT! Don’t say I didn’t warn you hehe… Of course, I will avoid too much information as much as possible, but sometimes, it can’t be helped!
“Flowers of War” was released late 2011, and was directed by Zhang YiMou, who is famously recognised through his other successful masterpieces such as “Raise the Red Lantern”, “House of Flying Daggers” and “Curse of the Golden Flower” (all films which I have watched countless times, and loved :3). So, it was no surprise that I chose to watch this film and once again, I am just blown away by his work. Also, being the history fanatic that I am, there was no doubt that I had chosen to watch the movie over “Total Recall” (I know, there is clearly something wrong with me >< Don’t worry, it’s next on the list!)
The movie stars Christian Bale (a.k.a Batman…urgh I hate to refer to him as that ><) as John Miller, a mortician who is clearly seen at the wrong place, wrong time. Other credible characters are Yu Mo (the ‘informal’ leader of the prostitutes), Shu (a young convent girl who Zhang uses to express the events which unfold, through her eyes) and Major Li (the remaining soldier who dies in order to protect the schoolgirls of the church).
I felt that the film was well made in terms of providing numerous characters a story which slowly unfolds throughout the film, rather than just focusing on one main lead. I’ve looked around for opinions on the movie, and saw that many commented that it was the ‘Chinese version’ of Schindler’s List.
I can tell you now that this film leads you to a much darker place than Schindler’s List ever did. Knowing the history in detail does help in terms of being prepared for what’s to come, but even knowing the history doesn’t help when you see it before your eyes. So, I must warn you that this movie is not recommended to those who don’t have an easy stomach.
The one character who really caught my attention was Major Li. He was the character who, despite in death (and he died off pretty early in terms of movie length) I still hoped to have somehow survived. He was so loyal, heroic and selfless in all he did. He sacrificed his life for his country (and the schoolgirls), and likewise his men sacrificed their lives for the people who they cared about. During the film, there was one scene that really stood out for me. In a scene where Major Li enters the church to leave a dying boy comrade in the care of the prostitutes, he leaves a shoe that a convent girl lost during an escape near at the beginning of the film. Shu sees the act, but doesn’t say a word. Afterwards, Shu has a voice-over, saying something along the lines of :
“That night, Major Li didn’t go far. He stayed at the paper shop across the street (from the church). I know, he could have changed into civilian clothing and fled.”
It was just the whole fact that staying in NanJing wasn’t his only option, and that he simply could have escaped but never chose to, truly touched my heart. Tong DaWei (who is an actor I truly adore, and is great at what he does) really depicts his character very well. So well that I’m sure many never forgot the sacrifices he made to protect those girls, right down to his last moments.
Despite my rational mind saying “Hyunnie, he’s dead. Stop having high hopes because clearly, he is never coming back”, I still hoped to see him again pop out somewhere in the film. He was one character who really left a part of him behind, and clung onto me whilst never letting go.
The cinematography of the film was truly stunning. The imagery used truly raised the film from a normal war movie to a moving artwork. Wasn’t too surprised, because Zhang always had something about colours (take his movie “Hero” for example; the main aspect about the film was different colours, different perspectives to tell the same story) and how they simply can express more than what a simple dialogue can do.
Likewise with the soundtrack, it was absolutely heartbreaking to listen to. In particular, the use of a heavenly choir to sing numerous tracks seemed as if Zhang was purposely trying to make me cry and sob over these innocent children…geez that definitely made me really angry about myself ><
So, this film is truly effective in educating any more about the atrocities the Japanese had committed when they invaded NanJing in 1937. Despite my prior knowledge about the events that occurred in that village decades ago, it was still a shock to see these events unfold before my eyes. Zhang truly attempts to inform the international community that the Rape of NanJing is still relevant to China’s history, and the crimes that the Japanese had committed to thousands of innocent people in NanJing will never be forgiven, unless they receive an apology for what they have done. And so, I would like to end this review on a quote from the film, spoken by Yu Mo:
“Sometimes, the truth is the last thing we need to hear.”
Thank you all for reading! And I’ll be back really soon with another review (probably IU’s new MV depending on when it is released ;P)
❤ Yami Hyunnie ^^~