Sat, December 17, 2011
Entertainment > Movie

War film chills Chinese audiences

2011-12-16 16:21:38 GMT2011-12-17 00:21:38(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Huang rushed out of the screening room the moment a new Nanking Massacre-themed film directed by Zhang Yimou ended.

"I shivered at scenes of atrocious violence and maltreatment in the massacre," the 50-plus year old woman said. "I will not watch any film of its kind again."

The Flowers of War hit screens in Beijing Thursday evening. Set in Nanjing, known as Nanking at the time of the city's occupation by Japanese troops in 1937, it tells the story of a group of prostitutes risking their lives to save 13 schoolgirls forced into prostitution by the Japanese army.

"I feel devastated watching the film," a woman surnamed Wu choked, with tears all over her face. "I hope there will never be wars."

As of 6 p.m. Friday, about 1,600 viewers had flooded into the Capital Cinema in Beijing for the film, according to Yu Chao, deputy general manager of the cinema. But some wished they had not come.

"It brought me back to a history that I am most reluctant to reconnect with. The Nanjing Massacre is the wound of the Chinese nation," Huang said, adding she turned away from many of the film's scenes of violence.

A viewer named Shen Yang believed the Massacre "should not be forgotten, and neither should it be reviewed much. Sometimes, it is too heavy to look back."

Chen Shan, a professor with the Beijing Film Academy, said that viewers' distress after watching The Flowers of War is the best proof that history has been faithfully recaptured.

Meanwhile, viewers acknowledged that the film successfully displays human nature in time of turbulence.

"The film has truly illustrated the complexity of human nature by unveiling both selfish and selfless sides," said a viewer named Gao Xiayang.

There are moments when prostitutes risk their lives to save schoolgirls, and other moments when they stand back in fear, Gao said.

Speaking at the film's premiere, Liu Heng, who wrote the screenplay, said, "The moral of the film is that humanity's goodness can defeat evil. Goodness is the only way out for mankind."

Director Zhang said that it is a character-driven project, and what distinguishes it from previous films depicting the Nanjing Massacre is that it glorifies the most beautiful side of humanity by showing characters' decisions in the face of life and death.

"The beauty of humanity is love and redemption," Zhang said.

The starring presence of Hollywood's Christian Bale, who won a best supporting Oscar for his role in The Fighter, has won praise from the audience.

"Different from Zhang's other projects characterized by Chinese elements, this movie is very international, with a lot of Western symbols like churches," said Gao Xiayang, adding all this will help the film win over international audiences.

The Flowers of War is not the first Chinese film to address the Nanking Massacre. The City of Life and Death, a 2009 film directed by Lu Chuan also depicted the battle of Nanking. The movie became a box-office success and was released abroad.

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