After 28 years building and managing a vast Siemens plant in Nanking, John Rabe is ordered by the new Nazi regime to close it down. Before he can pack, the Japanese army, lead unofficially by a bloodthirsty imperial uncle, lays siege to the city. Rabe accepts, as prominent representative of Japans' major European ally, to head the Western ex-pats society's plan to start and run an international zone, like worked in Shangai. Rabe however wants it to save his workers and their close ones, over 200,000, and sacrifices all his personal interests.Written by
One of the chief headaches for the production involved the scene where a Japanese soldier insists on searching the girls' dormitory in the college and orders the girls to remove their nightgowns. A huge majority of Chinese actresses refused to appear nude because it would have brought shame to their families. See more »
There is a scene where Dr. Rosen and John Rabe are drinking together and then join in a duet of "Hitler. He only had one ......". This was set just before Xmas 1937. The song is not believed to have been written until 1939. (Autobiography Fringe Benefits, by writer Donough O'Brien where he says that the original was written in August 1939 by his father, Toby O'Brien) See more »
This is the second film about the Nanking (Nanjing) massacre of 1937, to come out recently. Both feature a man whose bravery saved many thousands of lives and who was largely unknown to the wider world until very recently. John Rabe was a member of the Nazi party and had worked in Nanking as the senior executive for Siemens for many years. In the eponymous film it's suggested that he is about to return to Germany, but his departure is prevented by the sudden attack with over-powering military force, by the Japanese.
Rabe stays, and heads a committee that sets up a safety zone around the Siemens works and the main embassies. When the Japanese take Nanking, and embark on wholesale rape and slaughter, this zone keeps more than 200,000 Chinese in greater safety that elsewhere in the city.
The story is seen through Rabe's eyes mainly and focuses more on Westerners than the Japanese, although the dire impact of a member of the Imperial Family on the decisions made by the Japanese to execute unarmed soldiers, is highlighted .
Some beheadings are shown but the wide scale practice of rape and enforced prostitution is skirted around. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of menace, instant arbitrary death and fanaticism is established effectively.
The film grips and, in its own way, inspires. It is interesting to see this film and the more symbolic approach taken by Chuan Lu in 'City of Life and Death'. Both cover the same time period. Both are films that leave you pondering on human nature, its heights and its gross distortions.
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