Thursday, 27 May 2010

City of Life and Death

Who knows how we would act during a war like situation, would you kill indiscriminately, or carry out rape, if circumstances and opportunity presented itself? Chinese director Lu Chuan’s latest film asks these questions of its viewing audience. ‘Life is more difficult than death’ sums up the fascinating City of Life and Death (2009). The film depicts what’s known as The Rape of Nanking or the Nanking Massacre which took place during a six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanjing (referred to as Nanking in the West) the former capital of the republic of China on December 13th 1937. During this period it was alleged that hundreds of thousands of civilians were murdered and between 20000 and 80000 women were raped by soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. These incidents still remain a contentious political issue between China and Japan. The film, which is a very moving and poignant study of the horrors of war, created controversy upon its release in China because of the way the director is said to humanise one of the Japanese soldiers played convincingly by Nakaizumi Hideo. To the outsider it certainly seems a frank portrayal of the Imperial Army’s role in this brutal affair. Similar in ‘feel’ to Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966) another film I would whole heartedly recommend.

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