Zhang Yimou’s Flowers of War 张艺谋 金陵十三钗 Has Christian Bale in Nanjing Massacre 南京大屠杀World War II Epic
One of the thorniest issues between China and Japan is the Nanking Massacre南京大屠杀that happened in 1937 during the Japanese invasion of China. The matter has never been properly addressed or settled and relationship between the two countries has been strained at best for more than 70 years.
Nanking (or pinyin: Nanjing) was the capital of China during the Second World War. It is estimated that about 300,000 civilians who lived there in late 1937 and early 1938 were brutally murdered by Japanese soldiers in that city alone. Elsewhere in China, there were also countless other victims (civilians and foreign and Chinese prisoners of war) that were slaughtered and or grossly mistreated by the Japanese troupes.
The Nanking Massacre, also known as The Rape of Nanking, remains one of the most horrific military acts of war against a civilian population during World War Two. Beyond the murders and looting, there were also tens of thousands of women and girls as young as 12 years old being dragged away from their homes and forced to be ‘Comfort Women’ to service the Japanese Army.
Up to this day, China feels that Japan has not publicly admitted any wrongdoings nor offered any genuine apology. For China, there is no closure. And in 2000, Japan published New History Textbook that were perceived by most scholars both inside and outside of Japan as an attempt by the Japanese right-wing conservative groups to whitewash or rewrite history of the Japanese wartime atrocities. The revisionist textbooks, although only used by a very small minority (less than 1%) of Japanese junior high schools, further aggravated the Chinese government.
Enters China’s most famous director Zhang Yimou 张艺谋 and his newly crafted movie, The Flowers of War 金陵十三钗.
VIDEO – The Flowers of War Trailer
The movie was based on The 13 Women of Nanjing by Shanghai writer Geling Yan严歌苓. The novel is about 13 prostitutes replacing a group of young girls who are hiding inside a church to avoid being captured and sent away to be sexual slaves.
Zhang Yimou’s new movie maybe one of the ways the Beijing government could use to force the Japanese to face up to the wartime atrocities that Japan has committed during the occupation of Nanjing.
Sure, many movies about The Nanking Massacre has been made before. In the last five years alone there have been Nanking (2007), The Truth about Nanjing (2007), City of Life and Death (2009), John Rabe (2009) etc. But this time it is being directed by China’s most internationally acclaimed filmmaker in the most expensive movie that the country has ever produced (with a budget of almost US$100Million). The WWII epic starring Christian Bale, one of the biggest Hollywood stars will compete for recognition in many of the biggest international film awards such as the Golden Globes and The Oscars.
Christian Bale was referred to Zhang Yimou by Steven Spielberg to star in The Flowers of War. Bale played a young boy in Spielberg’s 1987 Empire of The Sun, a movie set in the 1940s in Shanghai during the Japanese invasion of China.
In The Flowers of War, Christian Bale plays a similar real-life role as John Rabe, a Siemens businessman and Nazi sympathizer who witnessed the Nanking Massacre in 1937. Rabe actually wrote German dictator Adolph Hitler and asked the Führer to intervene with the Japanese to stop the horrific raping and killing that went on. With American missionaries such as Minnie Vautrin, John Magee and others, John Rabe helped save some 250,000 Chinese lives by establishing an international safety zone in Nanking. Rabe even opened up his own resident to shelter another few hundreds more. When the Japanese troupes wanted to enter Rabe’s premises, they were stopped at the door when the German engineer showed them his Nazi membership credentials. As a result of his actions, John Rabe was being dubbed as The Good Nazi of Nanking.
However, after the war, John Rabe became impoverished and lived in destitute. For years, the citizens of Nanking and the mayor sent food to support Rabe and his family even after his death in 1950. In 1997, China honored John Rabe as a national hero and moved his tombstone from Berlin to Nanjing.
The Flowers of War has a limited North America run initially. The movie opens in the U.S. on Dec. 21 in New York and Dec 23 in Los Angeles and San Francisco, enough to qualify for competition as The Best Foreign Language Film in the 84th Academy Awards (The Oscars) on Feb 26, 2012.
Photo: John Rabe’s former home in Nanjing during the war. [Credit: Wikipedia CC2.0]
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