It is said that war brings out the best and worst of the people. In fact most of the war movies have been centered on this theme. What should be seen is how successfully the screenplay builds those situations and factors which bring out the best and the worst of the people. ‘The Flowers of War’ is an example of excellent ingenuity in this regard.
The drama of the movie takes place in a cathedral in Nanking, the ex-capital of China during the second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. The city has almost been captured and destroyed, hundred thousands have been murdered and great many raped. A squad of Chinese soldiers is fighting the final battle of saving some dozen female convent children; meanwhile a lone westerner, a mortician, is striving to reach the cathedral to bury the dead priest. The girls eventually end up in the cathedral, soon to be joined by a group of same number of females from the Nanking’s red light area. Then this uneasy gathering of a philistine westerner, convent girls, prostitutes and a young protégé of the deceased priest of the cathedral race against the time to flee the danger of imminent threat of rape and murder.
The westerner, finely played by Christian Bale, transforms into a priest to rescue the sheltered girls but that would not be enough. Japanese are too brutal to let these young virgins go. It is then that the ‘bad women’ of red light area take the greatest act of courage in saving not only the young girls but also the trace of humanity left in the God-forsaken shambles of Nanking. The title of the movie ‘The Flowers of War’ is actually from this redemptive sacrifice of the prostitutes. The central theme of saving young girls is symbolic of struggle of the present generation to save the future ones.
The final impact left by the movie is quite overwhelming both emotionally and cinematically. With gripping screenplay, powerful dialogues, superb acting, enchanting music and camera work no less than Hollywood, it is one of the best movies of the year, perhaps that of decade. It also entails a promising future for Chinese cinema. The movie was released on the 74th anniversary of Nanking Massacre. It did great in China but could not do much business in rest of the world. China officially submitted this movie for Oscars but was not even shortlisted, which is a disappointment.
This movie is recommended for a much broader audience of country such as ours to get a heart touching sense of humanity in the face of utter brutality and war.