Thursday, September 17, 2009

南京!南京!Nanjing! Nanjing! (City of Life and Death)

Extremely hard-to-watch movie about the take of Nanking by the Japanese and all the atrocities that come after conquer subdues conquered. I still have engraved in my brain the last words spoken in this movie: “Life is harder than death”. You have no idea how true those words are, especially after watching this mesmerizing film about the atrocities the Japanese did in WWII.

The film looks and feels so realistic that at times gives the impression of being a documentary, moving pictures taken when everything was happening in reality. But this is no documentary as has a narrative that tells in silence what one Japanese soldier sees since he entered the city after the Chinese surrendered. What he sees (and we do too) is truly horrendous and very emotional for the character and for viewers, so definitively is not a film and story for the weak.

I couldn’t stop watching because the images and the storytelling are impressive, but my heart and body shrunk and still feel the pain of what I saw. Yes the film inhabits a strange space between art movie and the mainstream that will totally blow your mind if you can stand what’s shown in the screen.

The film is in black and white with very few words spoken in different languages, including some writings in English at the very beginning that I interpret as the writings of John Rabe, the German that saved many Chinese during the “rape” of Nanking. Top production values with top performances; but honestly, the story is really hard to watch even when the images are spectacular. In particular the end of the movie is almost surreal with Japanese soldiers dancing at the beat of their giant drums and the film ending in a large field with tiny white flowers.

As someone says, it’s common that cinema portraits what Germans did in WWII but very seldom audiences have the opportunity to watch what the Japanese did. This is one opportunity that many should not miss for the History lesson told in a non-melodramatic and emotion-intense way.

I do recommend the movie as a movie to those that like art in their movies and to those that don’t too (it's also mainstream); but insist that the story is not for the weak. This is not a movie to enjoy but just to keep the rating system I mention the word, enjoy.


Watch trailer @ Movie On Companion

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