The Flowers of War: A Visually War Stunning Epic

Jin líng shí san chai a.k.a The Flowers of War (Zhang Yimou, 2011)

We all agree that this year we can’t wait any longer for Mr. Christian Bale’s performance in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. While waiting for the date, I would like to recommend you to watch another amazing performance of Mr. Bale in the beautiful film from acclaimed Chinese director, Zhang Yimou, The Flowers of War. Although this was released in December 2011, I just saw its international poster last month and I got the film last week.

This is adapted from a novel by Yan Geling. People of Chinese said this isn’t based on a real event. They assume that the reality was even worse. Set in 1937 during Japan’s occupancy of Nanking, John Miller (Christian Bale), an American guy finds children refugee with a group of prostitute in a church. They are caught in circumstance which seems no hope to escape. In order that he can protect and lead them to safety, he pretends to become a priest.

This is a new film from Zhang Yimou, the director of Hero (2002) and Curse of the Golden Flower (2006). I can say that this is different from his previous action colossal films. Through this film, we can enjoy another side of his capability to make different genre of film. Nevertheless, we still can see his wonderful trademark to create beautiful and artistic visual effects.

The story is delivered well. The first 15 minutes is truly heroic. I’m sure that it’s gonna be horrific. And I’m right. Then I found out that it’s very touching and shocking at the same time. Some beautiful brutal violence scenes really work. It’s all gripping. It can make you speechless because you will confuse what reaction you should express. You may close your eyes, cry, shout, or just see it. Yeah, it is very sadistic, but it is very beautiful, elegant, and irresistible. The visual is stunning as usual, just like his earlier jobs.

The confrontation between the children of church and the prostitute seems funny at the first, but the next part is gonna blow your mind when they actually need each other to save everyone. There is just one plan to save the children. And the plan is very terrifying. It will tell you the meaning of sacrifice and human spirit, no matter what they are, even prostitute.

I think I’ve already seen war films enough. It’s said that in the middle of war, sometimes horrible attitude is just inevitable. I don’t have any idea about that. All I can say is that the victim of war is the humanity itself. That’s what happens in this film.

Mr. Zhang can describe the real situation of war pretty well. I was wondering at the beginning how a war event could be drawn beautifully. The answer is yes, it could. And my next question: is this still gonna be colorful, just like Hero or Curse of The Golden Flower? The answer is yes, this is. Beside the church’s glass windows, the women of prostitute really make this more colorful.

Anyway, there are some scenes that disturb my mind. It looks very silly to see two women of prostitute that come back for a reason which totally can’t compare to the risk of their life. One more thing, the romantic scene between John and Mo is unnecessary. Come on, in that emergency situation, I don’t think so. It’s not kind of Hollywood film anyway.

Mr. Bale’s performance is quite amazing. It’s unpredictable. I don’t know how this is gonna be. At the first, he is just brave to pass through any danger at war for one reason, money. Then, he got drunk enough at church to be a priest. The next moment, he just becomes unpredictable and confused what he should have done. It’s an interesting character. How fast his deep personality suddenly changes because of one big dramatic moment around. According to the news, the one who recommended Mr. Bale for the lead role is Steven Spielberg. Right decision!

Ni Ni, the main actress for the role Yu Mo, delivers a stunning performance in her debut. She can lead a group of prostitute very well. The other cast is not bad. I wonder how the Japanese cast would like to join this project.

As the composer, Qigang Chen can create a score that supports the beauty of Mr. Zhang’s direction.

Last film from China I watched recently is Tangshan dadizhen a.k.a Aftershock (Xiaogang Feng, 2010). That was very impressive. But this one is more impressive. Just watch it.

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Director: Zhang Yimou

Writers: Heng Liu (screenplay), Geling Yan (novel)

Stars: Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Xinyi Zhang

Run Time: 2 h 19 m

–HW (8.3/10)–

Quote Choice:

George : We can’t just throw our lives away. Life is a sacred gift. It’s not ours to throw away.


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