The Flowers of War
by Nahid Taheri
A Westerner finds refuge with a group of women in a church during Japan’s rape of Nanking in 1937. Posing as a priest, he attempts to lead the women to safety. This is a summary of the 2011 movie, The Flowers of War. The movie is based on a novel, and relates to a war between Japan and China in 1937. The war was the result of a decades-long Japanese imperialist policy aiming to dominate China politically and militarily, and to secure its vast raw material reserves and other economic resources, particularly food and labor. The rape of Nanking was one of the most horrifying atrocities in history, during which the Imperial Japanese Army invaded the Chinese capital city and killed approximately 300,000 civilians, usually raping the women first. Nanking, today is called Nanjing, has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions. The Flowers of War is the first film about this event. It features an American male who escapes and hides out in a church with a group of students and prostitutes. The drunken man would at first prefer to leave the students, who are teenaged girls, but slowly pulls himself together, dresses in a priest’s vestments, and takes on the responsibility of protecting them.
The Flowers of War is in many ways a good film. There are moments of genuine emotion, and the director (Zhang Yimou) powerfully underlines the horrors of this dreadful moment in history. It is very touching; the director finds a special perspective to show us goodness, hope, sacrifice and humanity. He has crafted a beautiful piece and a compelling story set inside horrific events. This is an emotionally powerful story about people caught in circumstances in which there seems to be no hope of survival.
The script is not based on a true story, as the true stories were much worse because there was no saviour; there was only constant desperation. This is not a movie for entertainment, but watching this is valuable.