The Flowers of War

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The Flowers of War

Theatrical release poster
Directed byZhang Yimou
Produced byWilliam Kong
David Linde
Zhang Weiping
Zhang Yimou
Screenplay byLiu Heng
Based on13 Flowers of Nanjing by
Geling Yan
StarringChristian Bale
Ni Ni
Zhang Xinyi
Tong Dawei
Atsuro Watabe
Shigeo Kobayashi
Cao Kefan
Music byQigang Chen
CinematographyZhao Xiaoding
Editing byPeicong Meng
StudioEDKO Film
Beijing New Picture Film
New Picture Company
Distributed byEDKO Film
Wrekin Hill Entertainment
Row 1 Productions
Release date(s)
  • December 16, 2011 (2011-12-16) (China)
  • December 21, 2011 (2011-12-21) (New York City)
  • December 23, 2011 (2011-12-23) (Los Angeles, San Francisco)
  • January 20, 2012 (2012-01-20) (Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Virginia)
Running time146 minutes
CountryChina
LanguageMandarin
English
Japanese
Budget$94 million[1]
Box office$83,311,434[2]
 
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The Flowers of War

Theatrical release poster
Directed byZhang Yimou
Produced byWilliam Kong
David Linde
Zhang Weiping
Zhang Yimou
Screenplay byLiu Heng
Based on13 Flowers of Nanjing by
Geling Yan
StarringChristian Bale
Ni Ni
Zhang Xinyi
Tong Dawei
Atsuro Watabe
Shigeo Kobayashi
Cao Kefan
Music byQigang Chen
CinematographyZhao Xiaoding
Editing byPeicong Meng
StudioEDKO Film
Beijing New Picture Film
New Picture Company
Distributed byEDKO Film
Wrekin Hill Entertainment
Row 1 Productions
Release date(s)
  • December 16, 2011 (2011-12-16) (China)
  • December 21, 2011 (2011-12-21) (New York City)
  • December 23, 2011 (2011-12-23) (Los Angeles, San Francisco)
  • January 20, 2012 (2012-01-20) (Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Virginia)
Running time146 minutes
CountryChina
LanguageMandarin
English
Japanese
Budget$94 million[1]
Box office$83,311,434[2]

The Flowers of War (simplified Chinese: 金陵十三钗; traditional Chinese: 金陵十三釵; pinyin: Jīnlíng Shísān Chāi), previously titled Nanjing Heroes and 13 Flowers of Nanjing,[3] is a 2011 Chinese historical drama war film directed by Zhang Yimou, starring Christian Bale,[4] Ni Ni, Zhang Xinyi, Tong Dawei, Atsuro Watabe, Shigeo Kobayashi and Cao Kefan.[5] It is set in 1937, Nanking, China, during the "Rape of Nanking", at the time of the Second Sino-Japanese War. A group of escapees, finding sanctuary in a church compound, try to survive the plight and persecution brought on by the violent invasion of the city.[6][7]

It was selected as the Chinese entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards,[8][9][10] but did not make the final shortlist.[11] It also received a nomination for the 69th Golden Globe Awards.[12] The 6th Asian Film Awards presented The Flowers of War with several individual nominations, including Best Film.[8][13]

The film's North American distribution rights were acquired by Wrekin Hill Entertainment, in association with Row 1 Productions, leading to a limited release in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco for late December 2011, and expanding into the following year.[14][15] Limited release for Washington, D.C., Hawaii, and Virginia commenced on January 20, 2012.[16]

Contents

Plot

In 1937, Nanking stands at the forefront of a war between China and Japan. As the invading Japanese Imperial Army overruns China's capital city, desperate civilians seek refuge behind the nominally protective walls of a western cathedral. Here, John Miller (Bale), an American mortician on a task to bury the head father of the convent schoolgirls, joined by the group of innocent schoolgirls and fourteen flamboyant prostitutes.

After an incident when Japanese forces assault the cathedral (who are then killed by the lone surviving Chinese soldier), Japanese Colonel Hasegawa (Watabe) finally promises to protect the convent by placing guards in front of the gate, and requests that the girls sing a choral for him. After the performance, he hands Miller an official invitation for the girls to sing at the Japanese Army's victory celebration. Fearing for their safety (especially since the guards' main concern seems to be not letting any of the girls leave the compound), Miller declines. Hasegawa informs him that it is not a request, but an order and that the girls are going to be picked up the next day. Before they leave, the Japanese soldiers count the girls and erroneously include one of the prostitutes (who has strayed from the cellar looking for her cat), totalling 13.

After the girls attempt suicide by threatening to jump off the cathedral tower, the prostitutes, induced by their de facto leader Yu Mo (Ni), decide to protect the girls by meeting the Japanese on their behalf. As there are only twelve of them, the former convent priest's adopted son volunteers as well. Miller initially opposes their self-sacrificing decision, but ultimately assists in disguising them, using his skills as a mortician.

The next day, the 13 are led away by the unsuspecting Japanese soldiers. After they have left, Miller hides the convent girls on the truck he repaired. Using a single-person permit Mr. Meng was able to obtain, he drives out of the town. In the last scene, the truck is seen driving on a deserted highway in heading west, away from the advancing Japanese army, towards safety. It remains unknown the fate of the women, who, apparently, sacrificed themselves for the students' freedom.

Cast

Production

In December 2010, it was announced that the film would be made, and pre-production started the same month. They began shooting on location in Nanjing, China, on January 10, 2011.[17] The dialogue of the film was shot about 40% in English and the rest in Mandarin Chinese (particularly in the Nanjing dialect, distinct from Standard Chinese) and Japanese,[17][18] with an estimated production budget of $94 million,[1] which makes it the most expensive film in Chinese history.[19]

No matter what wars or disasters happen in history, what surrounds these times is life, love, salvation and humanity. I hope those things are felt in this story. The human side of the story was more important to me than the background of the Nanjing massacre. Human nature, love and sacrifice – these are the things that are truly eternal. For me, the event is the historical background of the film. But the enduring question of the story is how the human spirit is expressed in wartime.[20]

Zhang Yimou on the film's message.

To distinguish the film from previous depictions of the same subject, Zhang said that he tried to portray the Japanese invaders with multiple layers. Regarding Colonel Hasegawa's sympathetic features, he explained that "in 1937, the militaristic notion among Japanese armies was very prevalent, and officers were not allowed to sing a homesick folk song, but we still wanted to endow this character with something special."[21] The director articulated that his biggest, though challenging, accomplishment in the film was the creation of John Miller, saying that "this kind of character, a foreigner, a drifter, a thug almost, becomes a hero and saves the lives of Chinese people. That has never ever happened in Chinese filmmaking, and I think it will never happen again in the future." Filming completed within 6 months.[22] One challenging aspect was what Zhang called the "very slow pace" of negotiation with the Chinese censorship authorities during the editing process.[23]

Marketing

On September 9, 2011, the film was retitled The Flowers of War, after a 20-minute screening for prominent U.S. film distributors and the media at the Toronto International Film Festival,[24] and it was changed by Zhang to emphasize on the female aspects of the story. Zhang stated that the story in The Flowers of War differs from many other Chinese films on this subject as it is told from the perspectives of women.[25]

In October 2011, the first trailer was released,[26][27] making way for an American trailer to be revealed.[28][29]

On November 22, 2011, New Pictures Film requested a raise in the minimum ticket price. When in negotiations with the eight cinema circuits in question, it resulted in a threat to boycott the movie over the distributors' share. Wu Hehu, the general manager of Shanghai United Cinema Circuit, made a statement, saying “this is a simple business situation. Without the agreement, we cannot screen the film." Zhang Weiping, producer of The Flowers of War and head of New Pictures Film, also refused to make any concessions. A letter was sent to the Film Bureau of SARFT, hoping it would mediate the dispute.[30] At the order of SARFT, both sides were to reach a compromise, which was achieved after four hours of negotiation.[31][32]

Release

Box office

China

The Flowers of War was released in China just days after the 74th anniversary of the Nanking Massacre.[33] In its first four days of release, it took in $24 million at the box office.[34][35] It was the top-grossing Chinese film of 2011, having earned $70 million after two weeks.[9][36] 17 days ahead, the movie had grossed up to $83 million, making it the sixth-highest grossing film in China, following American exports such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($145.5 million) and Avatar ($204 million).[25][37] After five weeks of release the movie earned $93 million.[38] The film reportedly earned $95 million in China.[39]

Critical reaction

The movie received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported a 41% Critics rating with an average of 5.5/10.[40] Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film an average score of 46 (out of 100) based on 22 reviews from mainstream critics.[41]

Twitch Film called it "arguably the most eagerly-anticipated Chinese movie of the year," saying that "The Flowers of War is a big movie in every sense of the word, from its kinetic battle scenes to the beautiful photography and impressive performances from a mostly young and inexperienced cast."[42] Pete Hammond from Boxoffice Magazine gave it 4 stars of 5, and said "The Flowers of War is ultimately an inspiring, stirring and unforgettable human drama in the face of a horrifying war. It is highly recommended."[43] Variety gave a generally positive review, describing the film as "a uniquely harrowing account of the rape of Nanjing," and defined it as "a work of often garish dramatic flourishes yet undeniable emotional power, finding humor and heartbreak in a tale of unlikely heroism in close quarters."[32]

Most negative feedback from critics were similar to that from Toronto Star, which gave the film 2.5/4, and said that "the drama is often weakened by the penchant for creating spectacles."[44] Roger Ebert, who gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, took issue with centering the story around a white American, "Can you think of any reason the character John Miller is needed to tell his story? Was any consideration given to the possibility of a Chinese priest? Would that be asking for too much?"[45]

Accolades

AwardCategoryRecipients and nomineesResult
Asian Film Awards[46]Best ComposerQigang ChenNominated
Best Costume DesignerWilliam ChangNominated
Best DirectorZhang YimouNominated
Best FilmThe Flowers of WarNominated
Best NewcomerNi NiWon
Best ScreenwriterGeling Yan and Liu HengNominated
Golden Globe Awards[47]Best Foreign Language FilmThe Flowers of WarNominated
Hong Kong Film Award[48]Best Film of Mainland and TaiwanNominated
The Golden Reel Awards[49]Best Sound Editing – Foreign FeatureRow 1 EntertainmentWon

Home media

The Flowers of War was released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on June 10, 2012.[50][51]

See also

References

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  2. ^ http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Jin-ling-shi-san-chai
  3. ^ "Chinese filmmaker taps Christian Bale". Telegram.com. http://www.telegram.com/article/20101224/NEWS/12240513/1011/rss01&source=rss. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
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External links