Zhang Yimou's Latest Epic Lauds Humanity in Wartime

2011/12/16 11:52:00 (Beijing Time)   Source:China.org.cn    By:

Chinese director Zhang Yimou's "The Flowers of War," starring Oscar-winning actor Christian Bale, will debut nationwide Friday with a story line that illuminates human nature during turbulent times.

The film takes place in Nanjing during the Japanese occupation in 1937, and tells the story of a foreign mortician struggling to protect a group of schoolgirls and prostitutes.

"The moral of the film is that humanity's goodness can defeat evil. Goodness is the only way out for mankind," said Liu Heng, who wrote the screenplay for the 150-min film, at the premiere ceremony.

Zhang said it is a character-driven film, and what distinguished 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.

Christian Bale, who won a best supporting Oscar for his role in "The Fighter," is admired by Zhang for his versatility and hardworking spirit and is expected to help the film earn more international attention and awards.

The film has earned mixed reactions after select screenings and is China's official Academy Award entry for best foreign language film.

"This is Zhang's best in recent years. It has a good story, real emotions and characters portrayed with flesh and blood," said Lin Yin, a postgraduate from Tsinghua University, after watching the film at one of its select screenings.

According to Lin, the film, instead of focusing on the cruelty of invaders and a dark and depressing atmosphere like previous Nanjing Massacre films, made her feel "warm and moved" with soldiers, prostitutes and those from different walks of life resolutely choosing to sacrifice themselves to save the country as the story unfolded.

A review of Beijing-based Jinghua Times described the film as "having both strong sound and visual effects as well as humanistic power," calling it "very Oscarish."

However, renowned critic Zhu Dake didn't approve filmmakers to take advantage of a serious historical event to fulfil box office ambitions.

"We fully understand the conscience and emotions of prostitutes and don't oppose illustrating their political virtues in a humanistic way. However, for a heavy theme like the Nanjing Massacre, it's not proper to drum up sex scenes out of box office ambitions," Zhu wrote in a review carried by the Southern Metropolis Daily.

"Such erotic patriotism is a serious mistake in value judgment," Zhu added.

Taking over five years to make, it is reportedly the most expensive Chinese film to date, with an estimated cost of over 600 million yuan (95 million U.S. dollars).

The film started screening in advance in several cities, such as Beijing, Thursday evening, the producer said.

On Monday, the Chinese-language book "Wo Men Yi Qi Zou Guo," or "We Walked Through this Together," was published. It documents the entire film-making process and includes many behind-the-scene stories as well as articles written by members of the crew, including Zhang and Bale.

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