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Jin ling shi san chai
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Flowers of War More at IMDbPro »Jin ling shi san chai (original title)

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There are flaws, but still a great film.

Author: Bao Fang from United Kingdom
22 May 2015

The first time I watched this film, I thought it was perfect. Then because of my research, I watched this film a couple of times more and spotted the problematic perspectives of it. The film has indeed presented humanity, courage and love in the anti-Japanese time from a unique and creative point of view, thanks to the excellent story from the original novel under the same name. However, the filmmaker's alleged effort to meet the expectations from the audience at home or abroad seems to be too much, as the 'eroticism'- related scenes are not so compatible or even contradict with the atrocity and cruelty of war and the destructive harm on those innocent souls in the film. Nevertheless, the film is still incredibly powerful. Again, I watched the film with the sound off due to the need of my research, but still I cried many times during the whole time for the heart- wrenching story. I cry every time I watch it, even if I remember pretty much every minute of the plot.

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A must watch

Author: Sudipto Basu from India
18 May 2015

A very heart rending story about a small group of teenage girl students of a Catholic school and an equal number of prostitutes from Nanking's red light area. Along with a American mortician who starts off to be selfish and money driven but slowly evolves to a guardian angel and devices way to protect the innocence and life of the teenage students. Also touching is the supreme sacrifice made by the prostitutes to safeguard the students which had initially started out as a relation of hatred. The story explores the human behavior and unlikely sacrifices made under the conditions of war. Watching the movie based on subtitles may be a bit of cumbersome but the storyline is worth it.

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War will change any man,good way or bad way.

Author: yogecaja from colombo
10 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The movie is telling about the war of the China and Japan in the period of 1937.Every war has lots of hard things,that is the law of the war or the tradition of the war.In this movie also there are lots of hard and bad things happening between those how the children survive from those is the simple story of this movie.Movie is created with some characters like Jhon,Mo ,Shu,George,Commander,Young soldier,Shu's father and other small characters.Those characters are did their work in every part.Important one is every small character get some importance in this movie.Jhon came for the father's funeral and how he help to escape the Chinese students with the help of the prostitutes and Geroge.Don't think about the film which is making the Japanesh as bad guys.If any it was a war in other place of world also face these kind of problem.Bale is an outstanding actor fro his young age on words.He does his part in this part very well.This movie tell about some truth of the war.

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"contains spoilers"

Author: campbellmingfei from New Zealand
18 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The flowers of war is a heart wrenching film set in 1937 in the southern city of Nanjing, China. The director Zhang Yi Mou tells the story of an American mortician, a group of young girls raised in the catholic convent and a gaggle of prostitutes all trying to survive in the war torn city of Nanjing that has been overtaken by the Japanese. Zhang Yi Mou, one of China's fifth generation film makers, well known for his early films known as the red trilogy, masterfully captures the emotion, despair, and desperation of war through the eyes of a young girl named Shu. The film is narrated by Shu, a young girl who has grown up in the catholic convent where she and a group of young girls have learned the ways of Catholicism and have learned to speak English from the late resident priest, father Ingleman. Shu in this film is a symbol of innocence and virtue liken unto the mother of Jesus, the virgin Mary. Shu manages to survive a few near misses throughout the film. In the opening scene she is running and hiding from Japanese soldiers she remains undetected and is unintentionally saved by the charismatic John Miller (Christian Bale). Another time where Shu is spared this time of her virginity at the hands of Japanese soldiers is when two soldiers begin to tear her clothes from her body the two soldiers are shot in the back of the head by a Chinese sniper, the last of his platoon. She is saved once again when Shu and the other girls decide to jump from the cathedral's highest tower to preserve their virtue being taken by the Japanese. This time it is the films heroine Zhu Mo who pleads them not to jump and instead presents a plan of salvation where the prostitutes would take their place when the soldiers returned to collect them. John Miller an American mortician is trying desperately to avoid danger and death at the hands of the Japanese army. And he somehow finds himself the father and saviour like figure for the young girls and the group of prostitutes. He begins the film with a beard and looking quite rugged. His appearance resembles Jesus. All the characters in the film have found refuge in a cathedral the only place in Nanjing that hasn't been affected by the war. John goes through a significant change in his film from being a self-concerned mortician to a man of the cloth. John first puts on the robes of the late father Ingleman as a joke but through the film develops into the role of father figure and is referred to in the film as father John. He assumes the role of father to all that have found refuge in the Cathedral. The shaving of his beard portrays this change from selfish to selfless. With the hair gone and a clean-shaven face John begins his selfless journey where every decision he makes affects the lives of those who are now in his stewardship.

Our other main character, the heroine and the love interest to John is Yu Mo. The relationship develops between John and Yu Mo from a client service provider type relationship to a mutual respect and sincere love for one another. If John is the father then Yu Mo assumes the role as mother in this film. Yu Mo is like the older sister and considered the leader to the group of ladies from the Huai Xin river district. She sees a younger version of herself in Shu, because she also can speak English and spent 6 years in a convent. When she was thirteen she was raped by her stepfather. It was Yu Mo's plan to take the place of the young girls in order to preserve something that was taken from her her innocence and virtue. The ladies from the red light district in their selfless act of sacrifice are given a makeover to look young and innocent to trick the Japanese. This honourable sacrifice seems to outweigh the dishonourable lives they have lived as prostitutes. After their makeover they say to one another comments like "if my mother could see me now, she would be so proud". Referring to their fresh faced innocent look, like they did in their youth. Zhang Yi Mou uses some interesting symbolism in this film. I think red is a symbolic colour in this film which may characteristic of an Yi Mou film. Red represents death, beauty, safety and virtue in this film. Yu Mo has red lipstick and a red Qi pao (traditional Chinese dress) representing beauty and desire. A huge red cross on a cloth outside the cathedral that represented safety, peace and refuge. Red is the colour of blood and violence. We see red blood sprayed across a white sheet as Dou one of the prostitutes is violently stabbed by a Japanese soldier after being raped. This can be compared with the Japanese flag. It has a white background with a red sun splatterd across it. One other symbolic feature in this film is the stain glass windows of the cathedral. Shu first sees the group of prostitutes through the windows and this image stays in her mind. When she is saved from being raped it took place under the huge windows. When the soldiers were killed by a sniper Shu was left with one of the soldiers blood sprayed across her face staring up at the windows with the sun shinning through reflecting the colours of the window onto Shu's face, another memory that we assume will remain with her for the rest of her life. The symbolism in this film along with a renowned director, great actors and a heart wrenching and well told story really made watching this film an enjoyable experience.

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General analysis of Zhang's Flowers of War **Spoiler alert**

Author: Isaac N from NZ
17 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The movie 'Flowers of War' tells a story of heroism in the face of adversity. It also reinforces the widespread Chinese sense of pain arising from the Japanese occupation. The director Zhang Yimou uses graphic violence together with instances of depraved behaviour and values to portray the invading Japanese force as lacking in any human qualities. This may explain the reason for using a high profile western actor with Hollywood fame in one of the principal roles. The movie is set in the city of Nanking in 1937 as the last remaining Chinese troops fall and the Japanese took complete control. The story is predominantly told from the perspective of one of the survivors, a convent girl. John Miller (the actor Christian Bale) is a mortician and he was in Nanking to assist with the burial of a priest of the Catholic Church. Finding that his services are no longer needed, he looks around the church to salvage anything of value as payment for his troubles. Shortly after his arrival a group of Qing Huai River prostitutes arrive looking for Gu the cook. Despite attempts to exclude them, they scale the wall and make themselves at home in the cellar. Seeing a white person in the convent, they attempt to seduce him in the hope that he can assist them in escaping Nanking. The film opens with a scene of deep fog, in the midst of which three convent girls scramble to find a hiding place from the Japanese troops trying to capture or kill them. This scene immediately introduces the audience to the cruelty, senselessness and waste of war which is reinforced by graphic violence and depraved behaviour. The Japanese are portrayed as men who have lost their humanity. They are undeterred from their quest to rape the convent girls. At one point, Miller flys a flag of truce and appeals to their humanity, however they are undeterred. In contrast the Chinese soldiers, in the face of certain death, tried to protect the girls even going so far as to return one of the girl's shoes that had been lost on the battlefield. Miller transforms from a selfish drunkard, dressing up in priest's robes to impress Yu Mo, the head prostitute. In the end, Miller took on the mantle of the priest and became a selfless hero. The storyline focuses attention on the saving of a small group of convent girls from the evil intent of the Japanese soldiers, which seems to be the central theme of the movie. The girls are initially saved by Miller, then by a group of Chinese soldiers, by a lone Chinese soldier later on, by Miller again, by the prostitutes and by George Chen a 12 year old boy placed in charge after the death of the old priest. They are finally saved by the 'traitorous' father of one of the girl's. Each of these saviours effectively redeem themselves through their devotion and selflessness. Thus the movie is a device to portray salvation, selflessness and loyalty of the Chinese and Western characters within the mire of depravity, perpetrated by the invading Japanese. The Chinese soldier's struggle against huge odds, is well illustrated. They face a Japanese invading army which is well equipped with tanks and machine guns. The Chinese soldiers use desperate tactics to gain advantage, mounting suicide missions as human shields to allow one of their fellow soldiers at the rear of the formation to get close enough to the tanks to blow them up. Though they realise that the Japanese will win the battle, they stay and fight. Even the last Chinese soldier is portrayed as superior to the Japanese, wiping out a Japanese platoon in his last act of defiance. Many scenes went on for longer periods than they needed to, to underline certain situations. For example, the Japanese commander defended the behaviours of his troops, despite the callousness shown towards innocent civilians. Bodies litter the streets highlighting the massacre of innocent citizens and the lack of respect for human dignity displayed by the Japanese. During the film, there is a constant background sound of gunfire and mortar shells occurring to highlight that the environment is highly dangerous. The film uses many devices to encourage the audience to emotionally buy into the story and its underlying themes. For example, violin music was used effectively during emotional scenes to touch the audiences' sense of compassion and concern. A convent girl falls from the second floor landing on her head after being abused by Japanese soldiers. One of the prostitutes sneaks out of the church to return to the brothel to retrieve some strings for her instrument to play for a dying boy. There is a beautiful sense of poignancy and uselessness of this mission as the girl dies on the excursion while the boy has already died. The Japanese officer plays his melody of home reminiscences and reveals one of the few humane snapshots of the Japanese occupying force. This abruptly ended when he slavishly followed his orders from his commanders, knowing that they would result in harm to innocent young girls. The movie ends with a clichéd scene of the hero driving off into the sunset with the girls that he saved. The use of graphic violence with many gruesome depictions of killings, particularly by gunshot, is contrasted with scenes containing humanity, humour and romance. Zhang is using the eternal theme of good triumphing over evil as well as over emphasising the callousness of a despised invader.

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"Sometimes the truth is the last thing we need to hear"

Author: doug_park2001 from United States
28 April 2014

THE FLOWERS of WAR is a disturbing yet touching film that truly captures the horrors of the Japanese occupation of Nanking, 1937. Long, graphically realistic scenes of war violence and carnage, as well as the numerous rapes which often ended in murder. Though the transformation in his character from totally selfish to completely selfless is a little sudden, Christian Bale gives a strong performance as John Miller. Virtually all of the Chinese ladies--both the Winchester Cathedral girls and the courtesans--are similarly well-portrayed. The beautifully peaceful singing by the choir girls provides a believable contrast to the horrors going on all around them. Special mention should also be given to Dawei Tong as Major Li.

While THE FLOWERS of WAR puts no blankets over the brutality of this event, it also shows both sides of the Japanese coin. Even at their most barbaric, the marauding soldiers still come across as eminently human. Humans, of course, can be pretty terrible, but regardless, I know of very few western films that succeed so well in portraying the WWII-era Japanese as something other than just faceless, sinister, bestial monsters. The ending is unexpected, heart-rending, but similarly believable.

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I understand the objections, but still find this powerful and well filmed

Author: Charles Herold (cherold) from United States
7 February 2014

The movies I've seen by the brilliant Yimou Zhang tend to fall roughly into two categories; big epics like Hero or smaller dramas like The Road Home. Flowers of War is an attempt to straddle these two styles, with a mix of bravura action and small, intense dramatic moments. It's difficult to pull off, and I wouldn't say it always works, but for the most part, this is a brilliant movie.

Flowers of War has received a lot of "The Color Purple"-style criticism along the lines of, "some things are too ugly to be made so beautiful." And while I disagreed with that analysis of Purple, I do, to some extent, agree here.

The movie immediately shows typical Zhang flourishes, like a small but marvelous moment where a cart full of fleeing people cuts the strings of a musical instrument as Japanese soldiers are hunting down and killing Chinese civilians in the famous Rape of Nanking.

The opening scenes are intense and disturbing. I had no familiarity with the Nanking massacre, and I would have thought it was exaggerated if I didn't spend a couple of hours reading about it. It represents the heights of human depravity. Imagine the horrific events of the movie repeated hundreds of thousands of times over a six-week period.

The movie focuses on a white mortician who comes to a girl's school which also winds up being sanctuary for some prostitutes. This leads to a lot of conflict and, in spite of the horrors, a certain amount of humor. There is also a thread running through of the last of the city's Chinese soldiers vainly attempting to stop the Japanese.

There is something disconcerting about Zhang's bravura filmmaking in the context of the horrors of this massacre. A rape scene centered around the school's gorgeous stained-glass window is electrifying, but one's enthusiasm for its stylistic grace conflicts with the grim horrors of the scene.

There is also a wonderful scene with the final soldier, played brilliantly by Dawei Tong, taking out a slew of enemy soldiers. It's an exciting action sequence full of intense moments, but it feels a little unrealistic and out of place, as though it belongs in a different film altogether.

So yes, it's often unrealistic, leans too much on clichés, and is filmed in a way that often seems more about the art of filmmaking than about the content of the movie.

On the other hand, there is much to recommend it. First off, the filmmaking really is incredible. Even if you object that it's the wrong style for the subject, there are a lot of moments where you have to be in awe of the artistic vision.

The movie also has some terrific performances. Besides Tong's tight- lipped soldier, Christian Bale is excellent, bringing a mix of macho obnoxiousness and genuine feeling to the clichéd role of a cynic finding his soul. Above all is Ni Ni as prostitute Yu Mo, a mix of brains, beauty, bravery, and flirtatious mastery that made me think of Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not.

The movie is touching, and funny, and stylish, and thoroughly absorbing, for all its flaws.

It's also painful to watch. I know there are movies that are said to handle the Nanking Massacre better than this one, but it's such an overwhelmingly grim subject that I just cannot bear to delve into it again.

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a little bit slow, but very touching.

Author: Hunky Stud from China
12 November 2013

this is a film that makes me sad, i want to stop watching, because it is so depressing, but i can't stop watching, because it is a well-made film.

Christian bale played in "empire of sun" when he was younger in shanghai, now he was back playing in Nanjing. he probably felt like coming back home once again. he is a solid actor.

it is a pity that such a good film didn't win an Oscar.

on the other hand, this film is limited mostly in one single location. it could have spent a little time describing what happened in the capital of China during that period of time.

This is also one of the first film which Nanjing dialect was used throughout, it is very rare. long live the Republic of China!

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Not the best film on the topic but well worth viewing

Author: rogerdarlington from United Kingdom
30 September 2013

In the winter of 1936-37, the Japanese occupation of Nanjing, then the capital of China, was so unspeakably brutal that it was dubbed the rape of Nanjing. Most people in the West have never heard of the event but, in China, it is still an intensely raw issue. In recent years, two Chinese films have been made about the occupation. In 2009, there was "City Of Life And Death" directed by Lu Chuan. Then, in 2001, we had "Flowers Of War" directed by Zhang Yimou.

"City Of Life And Death", which is unquestionably the far superior work, made little effort to appeal to a Western audience, although it did have a European character - the real-life John Rabe, known as the German Schindler - as a key character. "The Flowers Of War", however, was deliberately pitched at a Western audience: the chosen director had achieved considerable acclaim (and rightly so) for films like "Hero" and "House Of Flying Daggers"; the central character is a (fictional) American mortician played by Christian Bale (echoes of his much earlier role in "Empire Of The Sun"); almost half its dialogue is in English; and it was accorded a massive budget of some $100M from the Chinese Government and state-backed banks. At the domestic (Chinese) box office, it proved to be the highest-grossing Chinese production of all time but, in the United States, it was a total flop.

The story - drawn from a novel - is actually a powerful one: convent girls and prostitutes, with seemingly nothing in common, thrown together as they take refuge from the marauding Japanese inside a Catholic church where the priest is dead and their only hope is a drunken Westerner. While it is an invented tale, the context in which it is told was all too real and nothing that is shown or hinted at comes near the horror of what actually happened. So "The Flowers Of War" does not have the strengths of the more realistic "City Of Life And Death" but it is well worth viewing and would be instructive to Americans who think the Second World War started with Pearl Harbor.

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Good history lesson

Author: TravelingRose from Canada
30 August 2013

Very touching, well-done film. Several very graphic/disturbing scenes, but likely necessary to capture the feel of the time. A piece of history I knew virtually nothing about, so glad to have received my education in this manner.

Might have been nice to have sub-titles, though without speaking a word of Chinese or Japanese I could almost always get the essence of the many conversations that took place in other-than-English. I agree with another reviewer who commented that a romantic scene amidst all the carnage and atrocities in the movie seemed somewhat out-of-place. I think I'd have given more points if the screen-writer had seen fit to figure out a reasonable way to avoid going the obvious route in that scene. Kudos in particular to the girl (can't recall her name), who felt her father was a traitor. Outstanding performance from beginning to end!

The movie is quite long and I felt it could have been shortened a bit by culling some of the war footage in the early part of the movie. As a result, it took us a bit longer to "commit" to the movie. Overall, an excellent movie.

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