The Flowers of War – 金陵十三钗 (Jīnlíng Shísān Chāi)

FowI admit that I am a sucker for sentimental war movie. If you give me macho war movie like Rambo, I will end up saying yeah that was okay…but if you give me a war movie with a touching story, I most likely will end up liking it.

I should point out that till this day Saving Private Ryan is still my most favorite war movie because it has amazing war scenes accompanied with heart-warming story. Flowers of War is a bit like SPR, it has amazing war scenes and heart-warming story.

When Caroline @ Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat mentioned about Flowers of War as one of her readalong list, I Immediately remembered that I wanted to watch Flowers of War. I actually wanted to see it in cinema but the timing was all wrong…however, I am glad I didn’t watch it in cinema because it would be very embarrassing to come out with puffy eyes 😉

I have to be honest that one of the reason I want to watch FoW is because of Christian Bale, he is one of few actors I admire for taking a chance to do challenging characters. However, as Oboki had expressed on Caroline’s comment’s form:

By coincidence, as I’ve just noted on my blog, I tried watching The Flowers of War the other day (Zhang Yimou is one of my favourite directors) but found it a bit dull; and was generally annoyed by the central American character.

I was worried about the same thing too. I don’t want it to be like The Last Samurai. Fortunately, it wasn’t the case at all. The American did help but he was not the center of everything.

The movie started with a very well done war scene. There was a scene that really touched my heart, I was unable to stop my tears when watching the human shield fell down one by one. The scene was unbearably sad and the music was done perfectly to support the irony of the situation.

“The Chinese army didn’t have adequate weapons to destroy the enemy’s tanks, so they employed a tactic from ancient warfare. They formed a human shield to get a bomb close to the tanks. At that time, the Chinese people couldn’t bear the thought of losing their country, and such selfless acts were not uncommon.”

Human Shield

I think the main reason why I cried at that scene was because I live in the country where we were once like them…we would rather give our life than have our country taken away from us.

In the commotion, a group of young girls were trying to get back to the church as they believed the church would protect them. Two of the girls got separated and John Miller, a western mortician took them back top the church. Miller was an annoying heartless man, he only cared for money and fun things. George Chen, the only boy in the church, begged him to take them away from Nanjing but he ignored him because he wouldn’t do free job.

Out of the blue, a group of gaudy prostitutes barged into the church. At the beginning, I really hate those women…I really hate the way they treated the soldier with no respect at all. The young girls now have nothing but ignorance prostitutes and white man. They showed nothing but selfishness. But everything started to change when a group of Japanese Soldier came into the church. They hunted the girls to satisfy their thirst of women. Something inside John’s selfish heart stirred and he acted as the priest of that church to protect the girls. One event led to another, and slowly the prostitutes gained more respect from both the girls and me as a viewer.

From wikipedia: Roger Ebert, who gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, took issue with centering the story around a white American, “Can you think of any reason the character John Miller is needed to tell his story? Was any consideration given to the possibility of a Chinese priest? Would that be asking for too much?”

To some people, it might appear that the American was the one who saved the day…but the way I see it, he was merely a vehicle who help the girls, the ones who really helped them were the prostitutes…and that is the reason why I like this movie. The centre of the story is the prostitutes, just like the title, they are The Flowers of War.

The prostitues

Movie Detail:

Director: Zhang Yimou
Producers: Ryan Kavanaugh, William Kong, David Linde, Zhang Weiping, Zhang Yimou
Screenplay: Liu Heng
Based on: 13 Flowers of Nanjing by Geling Yan
Starring: Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Zhang Xinyi, Tong Dawei, Atsuro Watabe, Shigeo Kobayashi, Cao Kefan
Rating: 4 stars
Other Reviews: Beauty is a Sleeping Cat.

This movie served two blogging events at once and both events are hosted by Caroline 😉

This is my third movie for World Cinema Series hosted by Caroline @ Beauty is a Sleeping Cat.

World Cinema Series: China


  1. Thanks for this wonderful review. Two of my blogging events. 🙂
    The movie sounds really good and I would so love to watch it but it sounds very different from the book, of course the central story is the same but the episodes seems to be in different order. I loved the book by the way as well and it moved me quite a bit. I think she did an amazing job at guiding us slowly towards the horrors (in the movie it seems to start with a terrible scene).
    My review is due on Thursday, I’ll add your review (to both events 😉 ).

    • I am curious to know your assesment after watching it and comparing it with the book.

      Jo dislikes the movie…no surprise because I also often hate a movie which didn’t follow the book.

      I really like it despite all the plotholes in it because I like the idea of people from the low class can also be heroes with big hearts.

  2. Interesting review. I’ve not seen this film but I know of a similar one called City of Life and Death. Similar subject but done in a less gaudy way – it is much tougher, in black and white and the patriotic heroism is toned down.

  3. Great review Nov! I must admit I wanted to see this for Bale, too. You mentioned Saving Private Ryan which I haven’t seen because of its extremely gory depiction (for my standard anyway), I hope this one isn’t too gory. I’m curious to see Bale here and I’ve read that his character is more than meets the eye.

  4. I really don’t like movies that leave me with puffy, red eyes, even if I don’t have to leave the cinema that way. But I love Saving Private Ryan.

    Harsh as it may be, the human shield idea doesn’t surprise me a bit.

    • I kinda like sad movies like that…but not the ones which are too smaltzy (I think I wrongly spell this word).

      Human shield happens all the time in a war between a superior country with a less superior one…one sad fact.

    • Thank you Andina 🙂
      You should try watching it, I am curious with what you’ll think. A movie with mix review always makes me curious to know what others think

  5. Oh wow, I’ve been meaning to watch this ever since I found out Christian Bale was in it and it turned out to be a foreign language film, so I definitely have been meaning to watch. Oh yeah, and then there was that moment when my tutor showed us a clip in my seminar, I was so surprised! Great Review!!!! I definitely feel like watching it now. 🙂

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