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Tanya Khoury: Ugly reality of war
May 04, 2012
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A film I stumbled upon in the cinema starring Christian Bale was another pleasant surprise. The Flowers of War as I had come to find out after the fact was the Chinese official selection to the foreign film category to the Oscars. Based on the novel written by Geling Yan this is the story of the events that took place during Nanking tragedy in 1937. I had heard briefly through history books of what had occurred between the Japanese soldiers and the massacres that had taken place in China during the war, but didn’t really know more about it. In this film Yimou Zhang (director) gets very close to the tragedies and the sad realities of war that hits close to home to many people around the world.

Based in China when the war begins to erupt we are taken into the chaos that war brings to us and shown the brutality of human actions. Within the story we find Bale’s character as an American who happens to be in the area that is suddenly overwhelmed with shelling. He takes refuge in a catholic church where female students have been hiding along with a young man who is also in hiding. Together Bale turns to them and puts himself into a role that as the movie progresses he finds himself torn between the reality around him and the character that he created to keep the kids around him feel safe. Posing as a priest he finds that he can try to guide or give hope to what becomes a hopeless situation.

Within the scenes of the film we are introduced to 13 courtesans that also find refuge into that same church. As the film is based on real events the characters and the performances rapidly become more real as each scene develops. There are many twists and turns in the film, too many to mention in one review, but the simple fact remains that it takes so much courage and promise to turn regular individuals scorned by society and make them into heroes that are truly remembered through the years.

The cinematography is what is most compelling, taken into like a piece of art as both the director and the cinematographer find a balance that make loud and brutal scenes look so hauntingly beautiful. The film is quite long and some parts are very stretched and there are a number of times when I felt the slo mo effect taken should have been a little shorter, you tend to fidget when the film exceeds its 2 hour 15 minute mark.  Regardless though, it is a film that many should sit through not only because it showcases the ugly truth of war but also due to the fact that this happened not so long ago and massacres of such magnitude continue to happen to this day makes it even harder to grasp. The director does not tend to leave anything to chance and some scenes are pretty graphic, then again this is the reality of what happens and I felt that it was an honest portrayal of these kinds of occurrences.

In conclusion I found that this film was worthy of an Oscar submission from Chinese cinema, albeit a little slow and long I did think it was well done and utilises a lot of richness from the culture, most of the film is in different languages  which I found to be a nice addition to the richness aspect. Go see the film if you can, it is graphic but is at the same time very informative. A  7.7/10.
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