The Flowers of War (Review)


I have always found it interesting to watch war movies. There’s just this sense of going back through the pages of history and seeing those events albeit unreal, unfold right before your eyes. They’re grim and dark—often hellish, but I guess that’s what makes it film-worthy. Our eyes are opened to the terrors a human being can commit in his lust for blood and power.

In Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers of War, we’re introduced to the tail end of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. The Japanese troops are off to capture China’s old capital, Nanking (in other accounts it’s Nanjing) and during the course of their capture, the Japanese have incurred a lot of atrocities to the people of Nanking. Such “event” would later on be marked in history as the Rape of Nanking—women, children and adults are dragged off the streets, gang raped and then killed. The movie then, while taking its framework from history, also adapts the storyline of Yan Geling’s novel, 13 Flowers of Nanjing.

In the movie, Christian Bale is John Miller, an American mortician requested to arrange the burial of a priest named Father Ingleman. He meets a group of Catholic-convent girls running for their safety towards Winchester Cathedral. After learning that he has no body to treat and bury, John just forces the priest’s adopted son, George for cash, wine and a room to stay. As soon as he settled himself inside the late priest’s solar, a group of flamboyant prostitutes from a nearby brothel seek refuge from the Cathedral—they also force their way in.

The Japanese would soon ransack the walls of the Cathedral looking for girls to rape—the prostitutes were well hidden under the church’s cellars but the young girls seek refuge in vain. John stops these soldiers but was only short-lived. It wasn’t until Major Li, the lone soldier left from the Chinese troops lured the Japanese outside the church by aiming a shot at one of the soldiers that they left these innocent behind. After the unwanted attack, a deceitful Japanese commander asks the girls to sing on their upcoming celebrations; John knowing full well that the girls would be raped and killed in the event. Not wanting to put the girls’ lives in risk, the refugees inside the Cathedral devise a plot to put a stop to these atrocities.

Viewers would get to feel the overall message of redemption and sacrifice the story would want to come across. It has its fair share of poignant moments and heartbreaking scenes where one can’t help but just stare dumbfounded on the screen. But as a whole, the movie was more confused when it should have been more focused. In one of the scenes where a bombing occurs, colorful streaks suddenly appear and I can’t help but wonder how’s this one’s happening. Also, I felt like the whole plot was all about the white man’s burden—how he tried to dodge it, then eventually took it and finally finding enough courage to fulfill that responsibility asked of him. Again, it glorified the sacrifice made by an American, overpowering the other, more heartrending sacrifices made by the Chinese leads. Finally, I felt the film was too long—almost three hours when it could have been wrapped within an hour and a half or two.

As the film winds down to its last scenes, we see the girls heading toward the west. I silently hoped they’re safe, but I can’t help thinking about George and the other prostitutes carried off by the Japanese. And then we remember the same thing that happened to a lot of our fellows here during the Japanese occupation at the height of the Second World War.

3 out of 5

What others thought about The Flowers of War:
Rotten Tomatoes: Viewers like it but pundits criticize it
Wesley Morris of Boston Globe says it blooms with jarring colors
Greg Quill of Toronto gives it 2 and half stars out of 4
Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail likens the movie to Casablanca


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felix felicis: The Flowers of War (Review)

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Flowers of War (Review)


I have always found it interesting to watch war movies. There’s just this sense of going back through the pages of history and seeing those events albeit unreal, unfold right before your eyes. They’re grim and dark—often hellish, but I guess that’s what makes it film-worthy. Our eyes are opened to the terrors a human being can commit in his lust for blood and power.

In Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers of War, we’re introduced to the tail end of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. The Japanese troops are off to capture China’s old capital, Nanking (in other accounts it’s Nanjing) and during the course of their capture, the Japanese have incurred a lot of atrocities to the people of Nanking. Such “event” would later on be marked in history as the Rape of Nanking—women, children and adults are dragged off the streets, gang raped and then killed. The movie then, while taking its framework from history, also adapts the storyline of Yan Geling’s novel, 13 Flowers of Nanjing.

In the movie, Christian Bale is John Miller, an American mortician requested to arrange the burial of a priest named Father Ingleman. He meets a group of Catholic-convent girls running for their safety towards Winchester Cathedral. After learning that he has no body to treat and bury, John just forces the priest’s adopted son, George for cash, wine and a room to stay. As soon as he settled himself inside the late priest’s solar, a group of flamboyant prostitutes from a nearby brothel seek refuge from the Cathedral—they also force their way in.

The Japanese would soon ransack the walls of the Cathedral looking for girls to rape—the prostitutes were well hidden under the church’s cellars but the young girls seek refuge in vain. John stops these soldiers but was only short-lived. It wasn’t until Major Li, the lone soldier left from the Chinese troops lured the Japanese outside the church by aiming a shot at one of the soldiers that they left these innocent behind. After the unwanted attack, a deceitful Japanese commander asks the girls to sing on their upcoming celebrations; John knowing full well that the girls would be raped and killed in the event. Not wanting to put the girls’ lives in risk, the refugees inside the Cathedral devise a plot to put a stop to these atrocities.

Viewers would get to feel the overall message of redemption and sacrifice the story would want to come across. It has its fair share of poignant moments and heartbreaking scenes where one can’t help but just stare dumbfounded on the screen. But as a whole, the movie was more confused when it should have been more focused. In one of the scenes where a bombing occurs, colorful streaks suddenly appear and I can’t help but wonder how’s this one’s happening. Also, I felt like the whole plot was all about the white man’s burden—how he tried to dodge it, then eventually took it and finally finding enough courage to fulfill that responsibility asked of him. Again, it glorified the sacrifice made by an American, overpowering the other, more heartrending sacrifices made by the Chinese leads. Finally, I felt the film was too long—almost three hours when it could have been wrapped within an hour and a half or two.

As the film winds down to its last scenes, we see the girls heading toward the west. I silently hoped they’re safe, but I can’t help thinking about George and the other prostitutes carried off by the Japanese. And then we remember the same thing that happened to a lot of our fellows here during the Japanese occupation at the height of the Second World War.

3 out of 5

What others thought about The Flowers of War:


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