December 27th, 2007

Last night we watched Nanking. It is an excellent film. A timely film, appearing for the seventieth anniversary of the Rape of Nanking. It’s a much needed film: How is it that the Rape of Nanking is still so little known outside China? It is not a scholarly film and does not present a “balanced” account of the events of December 1937- but tell me: How could you produce a balanced account of the Rape of Nanking? Doesn’t matter how you frame it, Japan’s going to come out looking bad.

It is terrifying, infuriating, moving, harrowing. Not at all an easy film to watch. In that respect, it puts Schindler’s List and The Pianist to shame.

It is brilliantly put together, with the actors reading out diary entries and letters, survivors and Japanese soldiers telling their stories, with photos and footage of the war and the Rape and footage of modern Nanjing mixed in.

I wasn’t so impressed with the actors. They did an adequate job, but not outstanding. The survivors, though… wow. It was incredible to hear them tell their own stories, to see them as they spoke. And the Japanese soldiers, veterans of Nanking? Wow. Some of them seemed sorry for what had happened. Others? One tried to justify the massacre of prisoners by saying the Japanese Army wasn’t able to care for them. Another laughed as he talked about the number of women they raped. How could any healthy person respond to that with anything but rage?
I do have to say, though, that I felt there was a bit too much of a focus on the Nanjing Safety Zone International Committee. However, the actions of the committee members, led by John Rabe, did a lot to save the lives of some 200,000 Chinese, and they certainly deserve to have their stories told along with the Chinese survivors, and they deserve to be remembered as heroes.

It is a harrowing film. It will leave you feeling gutted. We chased it up with Shrek 3, and that provided a necessary break, the time and space to process the horror we had just seen. But Nanking is a film you must see.


2 Responses to “Nanking”

  1. nick Says:

    Thought it was balanced as it could be. After hearing the Japanese soldiers own accounts any balance in the form of converse opinions on the Japanese side would be fruitless. Pretty horrific imagery, got me all choked up. I wish i had thought of a movie chaser.

    If there is one movie you watch this month make it Superbad.. sheer brilliance.

  2. wangbo Says:

    Superbad? I’ll look out for it.