Archive of Resources on City of Life and Death
Director Lu Chuan's first film Mountain Patrol(2004):
Emily Hensley's response:
“City of Life and Death” is a traumatizing and dramatic film released in 2009 directed by Lu Chuan based on the historical events that occurred in the 1937 Japanese war called the “Rape of Nanking.” The illustration of the events that transpired during this war are brutally authentic, heinous and devastating to the audience. Crushing the audience’s heart while making them feel helpless like an ignorant bystander who can do nothing but watch. During the actual “Rape of Nanking” over 300,000 victims were claimed but there were many more. In Lu Chuan’s film every character was a victim, the children, the women and the men, whether they were the European/German foreigners or they were the Chinese civilians/soldiers but most surprisingly even the insanely cruel Japanese soldiers were victims.
The power of this film is the weakness and the strength of others. Just one Chinese civilian shows more strength and power in their weakest moment than a whole army of these trained killers. With massive weapons and an unfair advantage the Imperial Japanese Army are controlled, dominated and brainwashed to kill. The devil arrived in this picture and fed on the souls of the innocent with no regret. This pulls on the audience's humanity as empathy and tears just pour out of us as watch a vivid glimpse into this nightmare. Lu Chuan the director, a Chinese man himself knew this story needed to be told no matter what the cost. This monumental film opens the doors into an untold history that will never die as the pain caused still remains.
In times of war people will do things they never imagined they were capable of doing and this theme replays over the course of this picture. Mr. Tang gives up the wounded Chinese soldiers and innocent civilians for the protection of his own family. As a result of his actions the wounded Chinese soldiers were killed and the young women from the Mr. Rabe’s refugee camp were taken into captivity where they were repeatedly raped and abused by the Japanese soldiers. Countless numbers of people suffered and died at Mr. Tang's expense but why? In war no one is safe no matter who gives in or gives up. The irony of what Mr. Tang did is a critical moment as no protection was offered to his family. His child was thrown out the window to her death and his sister in law May was taken. Near the end of the film when Mr. Tang has a chance to escape the war, however, he cannot leave as his guilt consumes him and he sacrifices his own life to try and repair what he has done.
The black and white color this film has a symbolic meaning as it takes the audience back in time to a place they never want to go. Where there is no light, nothing bright just a play on emotions of a dark and dreary tale full of doom. The scenery shown throughout the film is of nothing but disaster, smoking buildings, complete destruction and the despaired remains of what used to be the city of Nanking. The explosion of diegetic sounds from the gun shots being blazed through one causality to the next is a sound that will haunt the audience; they can almost hear it ringing and vibrating through their ears. Chinese soldiers and civilians were shot over and over again leaving the audience almost numb as shock sets in.
Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of this film was watching these exquisitely brave young women being carried naked and thrown onto a wagon like a rag dolls after being savagely raped and murdered. The way these women were piled onto this wagon truly portrayed the Japanese soldiers as heartless and complexly inhuman individuals.
Kadokawa is the only Japanese solider who showed emotion and remorse for these appalling acts committed against the people of Nanking. From the start to the finish of the film the audience can see the toll taken on Kadokawa. He became enchanted with a young prostitute named Yuriko and promised to marry her after the war was over. This showed a side that the audience had not seen from any of the other men. He had feelings and was capable of love just like any other normal person. It was obvious he was distraught when he witnessed Yuriko being held captive and raped with the other women. He should have saved her but he did not and then he found out later that she was dead. During the scene where he watched the dead women being piled unto the wagon he looked scared as if he knew she was already dead. Kadokawa also seemed saddened when he watched the soldiers kill May as he stated “But she was so beautiful.” Then another prostitute Xiajang was captured for trying to save a man named Shunzi. She called to Kadokawa to shoot her and he did, not in cold blood but only to relieve the pain; to put her out of her misery.
As the film drew to a closing we see a field of flowers and then the young boy Xiaodouzi and the man Shunzi as prisoners being lead by Kadokawa and another solider. Kadokawa again showed humanity by releasing them from their ties and he set them free. He then stated “Life is more difficult than Death.” This reminded me of the visual shots filmed of the ruins that was once a thriving city. I asked myself what kind of life could they have lived? If life was sustained what did the survivors have to endure, overcome and rebuild through so much pain? Whereas in death the lights are out and the pain is gone. This made me question was he right? Was death easier than life?
As Xiaodouzi and Shunzi walk away they heard the fire of gun shots and their faces dropped with a look of “I knew this was too good to be true” they just knew they had been shot. They inspected each other for a gunshot wound but none were present and they immediately began to laugh, skip and play with the flowers. Life was beautiful for them at that moment and my question was answered. No matter how hard life can get, even in times of war, life is worth living for those beautiful moments. It was interesting to find out that Xiaodouzi is still alive today and I thought to myself he will never forget, but he maybe he healed from the unseen wounds of war. On the other hand for Kadokawa the wounds of war, guilt and shame were too much to bear as the shot he fired was for himself, where he finally relieved his own pain.
Although an actor is an actor they are human as well, so escaping from this film most have been pure hell. The truth the actors portrayed is so disturbingly real from the look in their eyes to the fear they felt. Their bodies and emotions were all in sync, proving genius work that made us think. The Japanese actors were true to their past having to reenact shameful events that their own people commenced. These actors had to be extremely driven to play these horrific parts but I wondered why? ? Maybe a thought or sign of despair or possibly to help heal and show they care by sharing this story in all its gruesome detail.
Patrick Reynold's Response:
Thinking about this film evokes a historical response familiar to many: That of a 31 y.o. Chicago reporter named Herbert Morrison as he witnessed, and though incredibly shaken, continued his radio coverage of the Hindenberg Disaster crying out the now famous words - "The Humanity of It...". I left this viewing jolted, and experienced the same when viewed a second time a few days later. I experienced none of the usual sense of "it is not nearly as realistic this time through" that is common for me.
The technical aspect is superlative. The raw drama of the black and white medium, coupled with the wide angle perspectives that were often juxtaposed with a similar shot from the oppositions point of view were brilliant. I don't recall any first person footage, but much from the perspective of someone who was in attendance and a close part of what was going on.
The use of sound, both diegetic and un-diegetic, was also distinctive. When the surroundings were calm, the sound of a passing platoon of soldier's boots impacting the ground would be amplified. Similar sounds of an individual walking in the dry sandy soil, as was often the case with Mr. Tang, provided an intensified sense of destitute or tenseness. The use of a high pitch flute with introspective or other worldly thought. Drum and piano, it all fit so perfectly. The film would not have been the same if not so expertly done.
A question that continuously lurked deep in my grey matter: Could I too get caught up in this frenzy, and become a savage emotionless creature only interested in my own satisfaction? Some of this is undoubtedly the result of brain washing. The result of a decades long desire by Japan (likely due to a lack of much in such a small country) to control China, and it's rich and vast resources. But can it all be blamed on such thinking. What about the compassion continuously shown by Katakawa, even to the point of executing Mr. Rabe's female staff member (who asked him to) as she was being taken away to face an unbelievable fate. Certainly there were more like Katakawa, but what would my mental state have been? Unsettling to say the least.
As this drama unfolded, I sensed hints, and sometimes outright declarations the emotional toll was taking on even the most hardened. There was the Officer who climbed to a vantage point ( with erie flute and drum background) to take in the mass machine-gunning. The soldier who had to be slapped back to his senses when he suddenly screamed out: "I want to go back to Japen". The cold, emotionless peer of Katakawa who threw Mr. Tang's child to her death: when faced with Mr. Tang's execution he showed emotion and turned away not able to watch. I can't help but be reminded of Veikko in "Kukushka" who repeatedly stated how tired and sick of war he was. What an awful existence. And to think, this is all many ever know...
The experience of my seeing this film, is not justified by this brief review: the processing of the thoughts and emotions evoked might very well never end for me. A masterpiece of work, I highly recommend this film - that is, if you are open to the raw humanity of it.
Kelly Battiato's response:
Usually I have so much to say about movies, but this one in particular is a difficult one to talk about. I knew before I watched it that it was going to be hard to get through without crying or being upset afterwards. From what I have read about this movie I think it is a fairly accurate account of what happened in China in 1937 when Japan took over. I think why it is so hard to talk about the film is because the horrible atrocities that happened in this film, happened in real life. It just makes you sick to your stomach. I was reminded of the holocaust, genocide, hotel Rwanda...and wondered how many horrible things are happening in our world right now. Just ripped my heart up that such horrible things happen to people. It made me angry and sad...it's all so pointless to be so cruel to one another. For what? For power? For control? You don't like what a group of people believe in? We are all humans for God sake... why are we killing each other? Massacring thousands of innocent people. It is so disturbing.
I think the film provoked thoughts of, what if I was in that situation like Kadokawa, would I do what I was ordered? Believe what my country told me was true? I don't think I could or would, but the scary thing is people are capable of anything. So who is to say "I would never do that" it is frightening what we humans end up doing despite thinking or saying that we never would. The way these Chinese civilians and soldiers died was so gut wrenching to watch. At some points I just wanted the movie to end, I couldn't take it.
Some of the moments in the film that stood out to me were, the shot of the Japanese commander looking out on the field where hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese men were murdered with the drumming in the background. It was a beautiful, and tragic moment in the film...very powerful. I think that emotion of what the commander had in that scene, was what all Japan was feeling...look at what power we have now. And when the Japanese have their parade and they come marching victoriously into the sacked capitol that was Nanking...there was so much pride in those Japanese soldiers. Yet you saw Kadokawa struggling in that moment, to be proud of what he had done. The scene when the women sacrifice themselves as comfort women for the Japanese and raise their hands one by one was extremely powerful. I loved how Chaun Lu focused on each brave hand being raised up. That scene made me think...could I do that? I don't think I could, but sometimes we surprise ourselves with what bravery we can have in dire times. Those are just a few scenes that came to mind...I want to stop now because I am crying again haha.
The whole film really is a masterpiece each shot and each scene was captured so terribly perfectly. Having the film be in black and white I feel was so appropriate for the subject matter and for the over all feel of the film. Black and white strips down to the nitty gritty and lets the viewer focus on what is going on, on the screen. Black and white could be good and evil mixed with all the grey confusing parts in between. The panning long, open shots throughout the film captured the large scale of pain and destruction happening in China at that time.
I have to mention some of the beautiful hopeful moments that gave some comfort...when Mr. Tang lovingly touches his wife's pregnant belly, at the end when the little boy blows on dandelions and laughs, in the beginning when the soldier protects the little boy they give each other this look right before the shooting starts and it was very intimate and moving. I feel like the little boy who survived was the hope in this film. He survived this awful historical event and had a life after it.
There is so much more I could say and dig into...I think this film is a must see for everyone, as traumatic as it is. It is an eye opener and forces you to broaden your mind and think about some difficult aspects of being human. I hope it causes people, especially in our American culture to wake up a little and look at history and look at our world and get involved and do something. Whether that be educating yourself about some world issues (past or present), paying attention to what is actually happening in our government, or just being aware of other cultures and their history. It is sad that no one really wins in war, it is ugly everywhere and causes so much pain and destruction on both sides. Ultimately that is what Chaun Lu showed through this film a very real look at a tragic time in history.
Chelsea Toth's response:
City of Life and Death’s rendition of the 1937 Rape of Nanjing is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I personally do not take the time to watch any sort of movie that fits the action/violence genres, generally due to the lack of aesthetic emotion and empathy I associate with the stereotypical action movie and the characters involved. With that said I might have held a bit of bias before even beginning to watch this film, but this film definitely does not fall into any such category, even though at first it may not seem that way. This film is not only a depiction of real historical war events, but it is also a remembrance of the 300,000 innocent lives lost during the besiegement of Nanjing, China, as it says at the beginning of the film, by Japanese military forces.
There was a period of time when the Japanese government denied that these tragic events ever happened; so the fact that there was collaboration between the Chinese and Japanese people to make this film is pretty remarkable to me, although I am sure there were critics on both sides. I commend director Lu Chuan for his courage in tackling such a sensitive subject that is still relevant today. City of Life and Death is a very important resource for humanity all around the world, as that it cannot only be used between to help reconcile between the Chinese and Japanese but it can also be used to educate the rest of the world about the evils of war. Before arriving to my film class the day of watching this film I had never heard about the Rape of Nanjing in any of my previous history courses and if I did I was definitely not properly informed of enough of the horrific events that occurred to remember it. I don’t believe that I could have forgotten about anything so terrible.
What I do like about this film is that both sides of the story are shown, but in ways that one would not expect and that is why this war drama is unlike any others that I have seen. Even though the Japanese are the enemy in this film by the end of the movie you really are going to appeal to the emotions of one of the Japanese sergeants because throughout the movie Chuan shows that these dehumanized soldiers are actually human and can feel such extreme emotions of love, regret, and sorrow. The approach Chuan took in the storyline to show these emotions can be too much for one to take in visually as was for me at most times. When it comes to human rights there is no censorship in the film. I believe this is another film everyone needs to see at least once in a lifetime as a better understanding of how easy it is for war to cause the human condition to be so easily broken down.
Ebony Nava's response
The battles between (co-occurring within and during “The Rape of Nanking”**) coexisting/incompatible antonyms are kicked off in the title of City of Life and Death (directed by Lu Chuan, 2009). Black and white. Good and evil. Humanity and inhumanity. Survival and perishment. Friend and foe. Beauty and ugliness. Fear and bravery. Victim and aggressor. And as the title suggested, of life and death.
**The Rape of Nanking being a historical event in China’s history in which 300,000 Chinese Nationals were killed by Japanese Imperial forces. Also, the definition of rape best suited for this situation is as follows. Rape: an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation.
Having watched many, many . . . many (mainly Asian, specifically Chinese) war films, I am honest when I say I cannot name a single title that imposes a fully holistic and damning perspective of war on its audience to the extent that City of Life and Death does. This film depicts war as the brutal beast that it is, out for the domination of everything, and everyone – nothing “heroic,” “valiant,” or worthy of “honor” about it. There are no “winners” on the ground, where everyone is a casualty on some level.
There really wasn’t much to like about this film; in fact, I despised almost every second of it. So why would Chuan direct a film like this? Is there a need for repulsively realistic war films such as City of Life and Death? I tried to answer my questions with more questions: Are legislators in Japan (and around the world) whitewashing history books? Are territories and boundaries drawn out, built up, and argued over? Is nationalist propaganda touted as natural and important to preserving a certain “way of life” (e.g. “national unity” “country before self” “patriotism”)? Are good and evil segregated as separate entities, seemingly incapable of coexisting or originating from the same person/government?
And, stepping back, why was I so repulsed? Why was I, like many others ready to look away from what humans are capable of when given power (separate from responsibility or accountability) over life and death. So ready to bury “evils” (such as The Rape of Nanking) and risk the curse of repeating them, than to remember them, face them, and condemn them for what they are. Is it because of a fear of what these atrocities tell us about ourselves? Because we feel “guilty?” Or, maybe, because it is just emotionally easier to try to look away and forget.
Chuan, however, refuses to allow the viewer to forget. Had the film been a true “documentary” a lack of human connection would have likely made the mass killing/rape scenes unbearable at worst and masochistic at best, while the line separating victims/aggressors would have been clearly defined. Had the film followed a single protagonist and his or her individual experience of the war as a victim or aggressor nothing would separate City of Life and Death from the masses of other war films. Instead, Chuan walks a fine line between a documentary style storyline that tells a holistic account of the event, and simultaneously humanizing his various characters that develop throughout the film – without appearing to force an emotional narrative of any particular character on the viewer.
Chuan walks the same fine line between documentary and humanity through his use of aesthetics and camera angles. Large/wide third-person shots were used to relay the full scope of a situation (the building full of innocents) and/or it’s gravity (the field of bodies). Similarly, intimate close-up shots were used to focus on small instances of humanity (the Chinese boy and man sharing small smiles of encouragement) and first-person camera shots were used to intensify and share experiences of fear/apprehension in his characters (the Chinese soldiers walking out to their mass death, Kadowaka right before he kills the chinese woman) with the audience.
The single real gripe I had with Chuan’s choices, as a director, was his portrayal of Chinese women “volunteering” to sacrifice themselves for “the greater good (assumedly?).” The Japanese Imperial Army treated “foreign” women as waste. I found it hard to believe they would have stood around waiting for the Chinese to volunteer themselves to be “used” and thrown away. I think that, maybe, Chuan was using this scene in an attempt to expound on an idea he seemed to introduce in an earlier scene were a resistance fighter stands up, alone, and then slowly others follow his lead; an idea possibly implying that it only takes one individual to create a ripple effect of like actions in large groups of people (whether those actions be good or bad).
The parallels of trading one’s personal responsibility in for adherence to a perceived authority between this film and last week's, The Cuckoo, cannot be missed; although the “phenomenon” is by far clearer in City of Life and Death. Kadowaka doesn’t seem to be “unique” in any sense from the larger population of Japanese soldiers, no doubt there were others plagued by guilt as he was. What seemed to trigger his guilt, however, was significant; a realization of responsibility for his (and the Japanese army’s) actions and their effect(s).
Sharply contrasting Kadowaka’s gradual acknowledgment/realization of responsibility, was the Japanese sergeant who appeared to have been consumed by the war. He sought to control and dominate/destroy everyone/thing he could. He wanted – needed – to feel as if he had won. He followed orders, did what he “had” to do. Incapable, it seemed of acknowledging, understanding, or caring about the impact of his actions. He “was” the war, the war “was” him. He was damaged, maybe beyond repair, and most likely long before he ever saw war.
The City of Life and Death is a must see for pro-war advocates as it would be nearly impossible, in my opinion, to watch this film and pick a side to stop empathizing with altogether.
Beyond making a strong argument against war in general, this film serves as a visual testament to an instance of humanity’s inhumane record; to the disgusting fact that we need to be reminded that there is no pride in taking another’s life.
That personal responsibility and dependence on authority are one set of antonyms that are not compatible bedmates.
It’s a real shame films like City of Life and Death are needed to remind us of the "victims" of war as a whole. To remind us of the direct impact war has on entire generations of humans. War is not brave men facing off against nameless/faceless enemies to defend their property. War is the destruction of generations of humans and their loved ones.
I do wonder, would we humans still engage in wars if each of us took 100% personal responsibility of our actions and their impact? Would we still engage for the glory? For the honor? Or are glory and honor nothing more than cheap badges of materialized ideas that are awarded to us by our (certain) respective societies to satisfy the egos we have been told to possess?
Destini Wright's response:
The Lu Chuan film, The City of Life and Death, not simply your typical war movie, this film is raw and real in every aspect of portraying the Rape of Nanking. The film pulls to each and every emotion keeping you in an almost altered state where you are watching it from outside your actual self. Seeing a war film is never easy, but for the most part Hollywood can take even the most intense events throw a love story in there and it is as if we forget what the realness behind the film is. We are often programmed to lose what we need to see and only observe the exterior of what is being presented. This is one thing that makes this film so interesting. You don’t have the option to disengage yourself from what is going on because the events that are taking place from start to finish are almost those that we say are so bad we can not look away. You are sucked in by the horrifying screams, the gun shots, the cannons. We see the smoke rolling and the shots firing and we can almost start to smell the burning buildings, feel the bullets wiz by our faces. The events that we see are so real we can place our self there inside the film on the streets of Nanking in the midst of all of the soldiers, children, and by standards caught in the cross fire.
Looking outside of the actual events and the sounds and imaging used to make the scenes so real, the color choice was a big aspect for me too. The choice to make the film black and white was genius. War is not happy sunsets and fields of bright flowers. War is dark and twisted, its bland and gloomy. The horrible things that take place in war are those that have the darkest effects and allowing us to look at it in this way puts us in an even greater mindset of how horrible the things taking place actually are. Sure there are lots of war films that are on color, but no other film goes behind the firing lines and shows us how the people simply caught in the cross fire are effected and tortured just as much as the soldiers in such times. At one point we see the Japanese soldiers going into the safe house and here we find out that six Chinese girls are raped this night. Rape is such a touchy subject we are lucky if it is even portrayed in a lot of films and here rape and murder are two of the main factors that fuels the events that unfold one by one. When we see the herd of 100 plus Chinese women that are forced to be put in almost a slave sex camp for the Japanese soldiers you can read in their eyes the fear and when the film actually goes into this camp and is shows the surroundings they are living in. It shows us where they were forced to stay and how they were treated, when a girl is offered a bowl of rice the way she begins to inhale the food just shows that these women were not only raped over and over but starved as well. We see over and over how they lay there motionless and with no emotion, it as if the blank stare that we see on their eyes tells us they know this is where and how they are going to die. Scenes like this really leave us with so much more when shown in black and white.
In every war film we have a beloved hero, but in The City of Life and Death who really wins? I feel that throughout the film it because obvious that no one really can come out with a positive attitude. We have Mr. Ravi, who was a savior to the Chinese women for a very long time. He as a Natzi himself came into the war zone to create a safe house for these women and children to try and keep everyday life separate from that of the war. We see despite his efforts that the Japanese military being as powerful as it was really has no “allies” they are a one track minded killing machine. They show now remorse when they enter and rape the Chinese children, they do not hesitate to take the women for sex. These people are programmed to kill and to show no mercy, perhaps the hardest scene to watch but also one of the best ones to show how cruel and horrifying these times were was the scene where Mr. Tangs daughter is thrown out of the window during the invasion of the safe house to prove a point. Mr. Tang was Mr. Ravis accountant and he realized this about the Japanese long before anyone else. As soon as he found out that Mr. Ravi was to return to Germany he made a deal with the devil. He met with the Japanese general and gave up the location of the injured Chinese soldiers in order to pardon his family. And then what? Was it worth it? Although no one knew this deal had gone out it was almost like a sense of karma that came back and after the choices that Mr. Tang made during the invasion not only was his daughter killed but his wives sister was taken away. This shows us that no matter what was presented to them the choices were already made. They were to kill and destroy Nanking and anyone who got in their way.
That is why if we think back to the holding area where the women were kept for sex when it last focuses in on Xiang the former prostitute you instantly think of her in that gathering hall when Mr. Ravi told the women of the news. The crowd goes silent and then faintly you see a hand raise and hear her softly say “I will go”. This starts a domino effect and one by one we see women stepping to the line and giving their lives away. For what? For their country? Perhaps, but I feel more than anything it is a sign of strength to the Japanese government. It is their way to help and to stand up and say we are not being taken we are going, you do not get to control this we will support our people and sacrifice for them, much like the other thousands of soldiers that were executed had done. We see a very similar event when Mr. Tang gives up his spot to leave, he knows he is about to be killed but in his eyes this is his way to make things right. He still held the burden of giving up his people when in the end it fixed nothing. To him taking responsibility for this and giving his life to allow someone to go with Mr. Ravi and try to fix things in his eyes is the only way. Right before he is taken he looks the general and says that his wife is having another child. This moment when he looks the man who threw his 3 year old daughter out of a window and lets him know that they can be broken down completely is much like the personal victory that you see from the women who volunteer their bodies earlier on.
Overall we see some of the most horrifying events that have ever taken place brought to real life in this film. I feel it is a movie that everyone should at least attempt to watch to see the realness of what other countries in times of war are put through and how it effects everyone not just the soldiers. This movie is deep and emotional, I don’t personal think that I could sit and watch it again, but I do assure you it is something that I will never forget.
Nathan Chandler's response:
War. War never changes. There are only a handful of films that truly capture the horrors, tragedy, and courage of the soldiers and civilian in World War II and this film is one of them. Directed by Lu Chaun, City of Life and Death is a masterpiece that combines two Chinese film making styles to tell an incredible story. It is impossible to watch this film and not be moved by the characters as they play out one of the most infamous tragedies in WWII history, the Rape of Nanjing.
One of the things that grabbed my attention the most was the amazing cinematography. While seemingly simple, I was blown away with shot after shot. Two particular scenes stand out in my mind. The first was a simple pan upwards over the shoulder of a Japanese Officer as he looked over the devastation that his soldiers had just wrought on the Chinese prisoners. All you could see past the officer was just what seemed like miles upon miles of corpses strewn everywhere and it just filled you with a sickening dread. The second shot was during a brief sequence as the last Chinese soldiers fought a desperate battle against advancing Japanese troops. The way the camera moved through the rubble and followed the action felt completely natural like you were really there in the battle. I was completely lost in the scene and for a moment forgot I was sitting in a class room watching a movie. That is really powerful cinematography that I believe is some of the best I have every scene.
It was not until after I had finished watching the movie did I realize another thing about this film. The actors in this film were beyond words incredible. Not a single character, no matter how small the role, performed extremely well. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to act some of these scenes as some of the stuff they had to portray was pretty brutal. The rape scenes were particularly hard to watch but were so well acted. The best actors in my minds were the ones who played Mr. Tang (Wei Fan), Miss Jaing (Yuanyuan Gao), and Kadokawa (Hideo Nakaizumi). These three shined the brightest in my mind as they carried quit a bit of the story on their backs and did it flawlessly. The one scene that sticks out the clearest in my mind was the scene in which Mr. Tang decides to stay in Nanjing to save someone else knowing full well it meant his death and was saying goodbye to his wife. Entire Hollywood films have failed to moved me in the way this one scene did.
In summery, City of Life and Death is a pinnacle of film making and story telling. The acting, cinematography, and the way the story of Nanjing was told makes this film one of my all time favorites for WWII films along with Saving Private Ryan, A Bridge too Far, and Downfall. This is a must see and I would highly recommend this film to anyone willing to give it a try. War may never change, but the way we remember, love, forgive, and survive can.
Megan Kurkowski's Response:
The City of Life and Death by Lu Chuan was an amazing film for me, although it was very difficult for me to watch. I actually caught myself crying in various parts of the film. It left me sad, angry, and even sick to my stomach. I was sort of speechless afterwards. I had never heard of the film until watching in class, but I must say it is one I will not nor could I ever forget. I definitely recommend people to watch this film if they could handle it.
This film is quite horrifying. It shows real life events that took place between the Chinese and the Japanese. It captures how bad things really were. You hear of things, but never see for yourself, and this film let’s you actually see these things that are going on. You see children being killed, and raped. You see women being raped, and used as sex slaves for the Japanese soldiers. You watch people be burned alive, and thousands of people be lined up and shot down in just a matter of seconds.
It is extremely gruesome, yet amazing at how realistic these things are. The sounds of the gun shots, the bombs going off, the screams of soldiers, women, and the children. These things draw you in and keep your attention. You get so into the film by these sounds that it almost places you in the movie. It all becomes so real to you. I think having the film in black and white was a great way to set the mood, and portray emotion. When you think of war you think of darkness, death, depression, and I think black and white sets this. You see a lot of war films in color and you still feel the sadness, but for me black and white gives me the full effect. It being in black and white also makes it feel as if that was the time it took place, before color.
One shot in the film that I thought was amazing was when the hundreds of Chinese soldiers are standing all together in one big group, and the Japanese is over-looking them right before they begin to kill them. In this shot you can see everything. You see the commander looking down on them, and you can see the whole group right before they are murdered. I just thought the shot was very visual, and liked how it captured the whole thing.
This film is one that everyone should watch. It really opens your eyes to the hurt and destruction that wars cause. It allows you to visually experience the tragedy that occurred , and also teaches you about history, some things everyone should be aware and have knowledge of. It sends out an extremely powerful message to us as viewers.
Seth Gardner's respons
Let me first say, that going into this film, when my instructor told me about how he felt about the movie I kind of shrugged it off because he fucking loves film and sometimes embellishes just a smidge. Or just sees film in a way that I never will so I sometimes just take him for his word even though I don't feel the same way. If you had me choose a word or phrase to say in response to this film I would just say "holy shit". Every encounter that the Japanese have with the citizens, from the first encounter to the very last where the soldier lets the Chinese soldier and child go, every single scene has you on edge. You never know quite what is going to happen and you sometimes presume that its going to be horrifically awful. Particularly the scene in which the Japanese commander throws Mr. Tang's child out of a window just to prove a simple point, really sets the tone for the both the movie and the event in which the movie is based off of.
The way that the Japanese are portrayed is amazing and confusing. For every terrible thing that the commander decides, there is either a soldier or secretary type that reminds you that their entire culture isn't full of bloodthirsty sociopaths like the commander. Also, to paint a Nazi as a caring, peaceful person that cares nothing more than about the safety of everyone around him is completely different than any film that Ive ever seen. I grew up learning and knowing about what the Germans did in the holocaust and the things they did to Europe and just labeled every swastika bearing person as evil. Same as the Japanese I think its important to remember that not every Nazi was a bloodthirsty sociopath and Im not sure why its become standard to label an entire society like that.
Really at the end of the day this movie is about the horrific things that happened to this city. There are so many instances to choose from that left me devastated that I dont even know where to start or end. To think that any of this may have actually happened genuinely pisses me off. War is a terrible terrible thing.
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