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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What others thought about The Flowers of
Labels: flowers of war, horror, movie review, opinion