Both H.Y. Brothers’ John Rabe and Lu Chuan’s Nanking! Nanking (also known as City of Life and Death) have been approved to be aired in China in late April.
Lu’s film looks at the massacre from the perspectives of a Chinese soldier, a Japanese soldier and a foreign missionary. The censors assessed the film over a period of five months, and a couple of violent scenes had to be revised.
Oscar-winning German helmer Florian Gallenberger‘s biopic about Nazi party member John Rabe, who saved hundreds of thousands of lives by setting up a safe area in the city during the attack, will be released on April 28, Tang Jingting of Huayi Brothers confirmed.
John Rabe trailer:
In the interview of Lu Chuan by Hollywood Reporter, Lu Chuan discusses why movies about Nanking have been so rare:
Lu Chuan: Not only was the massacre of civilians in Nanjing a disaster for humanity, China also suffered her worst defeat in the Sino-Japanese War. It is too painful an episode for the national psyche and has remained a forbidden subject in Chinese cinema.
He also talks about how Nanking! Nanking! explores the mechanisims of war and how and why people would commit atrocities:
Lu: Over three years and after extensive research, I underwent a tremendous shift in perspective, so the final version is radically different in storyline and point of view. At first, I concentrated on representing the Rape of Nanking, but gradually I wanted to explore the laws of nature governing war and how they give rise to massacres. … It is not about how frightening the Japanese were, but how frightening human nature can be.
Lu: In the past, Chinese films often demonized Japanese soldiers, yet they never probed deeply enough into how and why the war happened. I made this film in order to open a window for more discourse on either side. It takes a more generous or open-minded attitude toward the perpetrators and offers a new perspective on history. Cinematically, it is also very different from past Chinese war films. It is entirely shot using handheld cameras. At the same time, I definitely do not want to use films like “Schindler’s List” or other Hollywood films with a war background as a model or reference. When casting actors to play Japanese soldiers, I deliberately passed over candidates who had spent time living in China, because they had become savvy around Chinese people and would make comments on Nanjing that they think are appropriate. Instead, I recruited stage actors who had never set foot in China. I wanted them to experience this country with all the culture shock that Japanese soldiers had when they first landed. All of them said they knew very little about this chapter of history, so their participation became a journey of discovery
He also gives his own view of many Chinese blockbusters:
Lu: I think many of these blockbusters are like a dumpling with a large piece of dough on the outside but with lousy stuffing inside. They lack spiritual substance.