The Flowers of War
|The Flowers of War|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Zhang Yimou|
|Produced by||William Kong
|Screenplay by||Liu Heng|
|Based on||13 Flowers of Nanjing
by Geling Yan
|Music by||Qigang Chen|
|Edited by||Peicong Meng|
Beijing New Picture Film
New Picture Company
|Distributed by||EDKO Film
Wrekin Hill Entertainment
Row 1 Productions
The Flowers of War (simplified Chinese: 金陵十三钗; traditional Chinese: 金陵十三釵; pinyin: Jīnlíng Shísān Chāi) is a 2011 Chinese historical drama war film directed by Zhang Yimou, starring Christian Bale, Ni Ni, Zhang Xinyi, Tong Dawei, Atsuro Watabe, Shigeo Kobayashi and Cao Kefan. The film is based on a novella by Geling Yan, 13 Flowers of Nanjing, inspired by the diary of Minnie Vautrin. The story is set in Nanking, China, during the 1937 Rape of Nanking in the Second Sino-Japanese War. A group of escapees, finding sanctuary in a church compound, try to survive the plight and persecution brought on by the violent invasion of the city.
It was selected as the Chinese entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards, but did not make the final shortlist. It also received a nomination for the 69th Golden Globe Awards. The 6th Asian Film Awards presented The Flowers of War with several individual nominations, including Best Film.
The film's North American distribution rights were acquired by Wrekin Hill Entertainment, in association with Row 1 Productions, leading to an Oscar-qualifying limited release in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco in late December 2011, with general release in January 2012.
In 1937, Japan invades China, beginning the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese Imperial Army overruns China's capital city, Nanking, in December and carries out the systematic and brutal Nanking massacre.
As the invading Japanese overpower the Chinese army, desperate schoolgirls flee to the nominally protective walls of their convent at a Western-run Roman Catholic cathedral. Here, John Miller (Bale), an American mortician on a task to bury the head priest, joins the group of innocent schoolgirls. He finds a boy there, George, an orphan who was raised by the dead priest, and taught English. The boy is the same age as the schoolgirls. Soon a group of flamboyant prostitutes arrive at the cathedral, seeking refuge by hiding in the cellar. Pretending to be a priest, Miller tries to keep everyone safe while trying to repair the convent's truck to use for an escape.
After an incident when rogue Japanese forces assault the cathedral (who are then killed by the dying effort of a lone Chinese Major), Japanese Colonel Hasegawa promises to protect the convent by placing guards outside the gate, and requests that the schoolgirls sing a chorale for him. Several days later, he hands Miller an official invitation for the schoolgirls to sing at the Japanese Army's victory celebration. Fearing for the safety of the virginal schoolgirls, Miller declines. Hasegawa informs him that it is an order and that the girls are going to be picked up the next day. Before they leave, the Japanese soldiers count the schoolgirls and erroneously include one of the prostitutes (who has strayed from the cellar), totalling 13.
When the de facto leader of the schoolgirls, Shu Juan (Xinyi), convinces them that they are better off committing suicide by jumping off the cathedral tower, they are saved at the last moment when the de facto leader of the prostitutes, Yu Mo (Ni), convinces her group to protect the schoolgirls by taking their place at the Japanese party. As there are only 12 prostitutes, George, the dead priest's adoptive son, volunteers as well. Miller initially opposes their self-sacrificing decision, but ultimately assists in disguising them, using his skills as a mortician to adjust their makeup and cut their hair to appear like schoolgirls. The prostitutes also create knives out of broken windows and hide them in their cloaks.
The next day, the "13 Flowers of Nanking" are led away by the unsuspecting Japanese soldiers. After they depart, Miller hides the schoolgirls on the truck he repaired and, using a single-person permit provided by the father of a schoolgirl, drives out of Nanking. In the last scene, the truck is seen driving on a deserted highway heading west, away from the advancing Japanese army. The fate of the 13 Flowers remains unknown, apparently martyring themselves for the students' freedom.
- Christian Bale as John Miller
- Ni Ni as Yu Mo
- Zhang Xinyi as Shu
- Tong Dawei as Major Li
- Atsuro Watabe as Colonel Hasegawa
- Shigeo Kobayashi as Lieutenant Kato
- Cao Kefan as Mr. Meng
- Huang Tianyuan as George Chen
- Han Xiting as Yi
- Zhang Doudou as Ling
- Yuan Yangchunzi as Mosquito
- Sun Jia as Hua
- Li Yuemin as Dou
- Bai Xue as Lan
- Takashi Yamanaka as Lieutenant Asakura
- Paul Schneider as Terry
In December 2010, it was announced that the film would be made, and pre-production started the same month. They began shooting on location in Nanjing, China, on January 10, 2011. The dialogue of the film was shot about 40% in English and the rest in Mandarin Chinese (particularly in the Nanjing dialect, distinct from Standard Chinese) and Japanese, with an estimated production budget of $94 million, which makes it the most expensive film in Chinese history.
To distinguish the film from previous depictions of the same subject, Zhang said that he tried to portray the Japanese invaders with multiple layers. Regarding Colonel Hasegawa's sympathetic features, he explained that "in 1937, the militaristic notion among Japanese armies was very prevalent, and officers were not allowed to sing a homesick folk song, but we still wanted to endow this character with something special." The director articulated that his biggest, though challenging, accomplishment in the film was the creation of John Miller, saying that "this kind of character, a foreigner, a drifter, a thug almost, becomes a hero and saves the lives of Chinese people. That has never ever happened in Chinese filmmaking, and I think it will never happen again in the future." Filming completed within 6 months. One challenging aspect was what Zhang called the "very slow pace" of negotiation with the Chinese censorship authorities during the editing process.
On September 9, 2011, the film was retitled The Flowers of War, after a 20-minute screening for prominent U.S. film distributors and the media at the Toronto International Film Festival. Zhang stated that the story in The Flowers of War differs from many other Chinese films on this subject as it is told from the perspectives of women. In October 2011, the first trailer was released, making way for an American trailer to be revealed.
On November 22, 2011, New Pictures Film requested an inflation in the minimum ticket price within China. When in negotiations with the eight cinema circuits in question, it resulted in a threat to boycott the movie over the distributors' share. Wu Hehu, the general manager of Shanghai United Cinema Circuit, made a statement, saying “this is a simple business situation. Without the agreement, we cannot screen the film." Zhang Weiping, producer of The Flowers of War and head of New Pictures Film, also refused to make any concessions. A letter was sent to the Film Bureau of SARFT, hoping it would mediate the dispute. At the order of SARFT, both sides were to reach a compromise, which was achieved after four hours of negotiation.
The Flowers of War was released in China just days after the 74th anniversary of the Nanking Massacre. In its first four days of release, it took in $24 million at the box office. It was the top-grossing Chinese film of 2011, having earned $70 million after two weeks. After 17 days, the movie had grossed nearly $83 million, making it the sixth-highest grossing film in China, following American exports such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($145.5 million) and Avatar ($204 million). After five weeks of release the movie earned $93 million. The film reportedly earned $95 million in China.
The movie received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported a 41% critical approval rating with an average of 5.5/10. Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film an average score of 46 (out of 100) based on 22 reviews from mainstream critics.
Twitch Film called it "arguably the most eagerly-anticipated Chinese movie of the year", saying that "The Flowers of War is a big movie in every sense of the word, from its kinetic battle scenes to the beautiful photography and impressive performances from a mostly young and inexperienced cast." Pete Hammond from Boxoffice Magazine gave it 4 stars of 5, and said "The Flowers of War is ultimately an inspiring, stirring and unforgettable human drama in the face of a horrifying war. It is highly recommended." Variety gave a generally positive review, describing the film as "a uniquely harrowing account of the rape of Nanjing," and defined it as "a work of often garish dramatic flourishes yet undeniable emotional power, finding humor and heartbreak in a tale of unlikely heroism in close quarters."
Most negative feedback from critics were similar to that from Toronto Star, which gave the film 2.5/4, and said that "the drama is often weakened by the penchant for creating spectacles." Roger Ebert, who gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, took issue with making the story about 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?"
|Award||Category||Recipients and nominees||Result|
|Asian Film Awards||Best Composer||Qigang Chen||Nominated|
|Best Costume Designer||William Chang||Nominated|
|Best Director||Zhang Yimou||Nominated|
|Best Film||The Flowers of War||Nominated|
|Best Newcomer||Ni Ni||Won|
|Best Screenwriter||Geling Yan and Liu Heng||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Foreign Language Film||The Flowers of War||Nominated|
|Hong Kong Film Award||Best Film of Mainland and Taiwan||Nominated|
|The Golden Reel Awards||Best Sound Editing – Foreign Feature||Row 1 Entertainment||Won|
- List of submissions to the 84th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of Chinese submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- "Trailer For WWII Epic The Flowers Of War Starring Christian Bale". TheDailyRotation.com. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- "Chinese Blockbuster 'Flowers of War' Leaves U.S. Audiences Cold". TheWrap.com. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
- "Domestic Total Gross". BoxOfficeMojo.com. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
- "Chinese filmmaker taps Christian Bale". Telegram.com. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
- "Reminder List of Productions Eligible for the 84th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
- "Reel China: Christian Bale's 'Flowers' picked as Oscar submission". LosAngelesTimes.com. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
- BBC News 24 January 2012 "The story behind Chinese war epic The Flowers of War"
- "13 Flowers of Nanjing Set Photos of Christian Bale". Collider.com. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
- "Toronto 2011: Christian Bale's China movie previewed for buyers". LATimes.com. Retrieved October 28, 2011.
- "Hong Kong chooses A Simple Life for Oscar race, China selects The Flowers of War". ScreenDaily.com. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
- Kilday, Gregg (September 23, 2011). "China to Submit 'The Flowers of War' in Foreign-Language Oscar Race". HollywoodReporter.com. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
- "63 Countries Vie for 2011 Foreign Language Film Oscar". Oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-10-14.
- "9 Foreign Language Films Vie for Oscar". Retrieved 2012-01-19.
- "Zhang, Bale blossom together on 'Flowers of War'". GMANetwork.com. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
- Napolitano, Dean (January 17, 2012). "‘Flowers,’ ‘Flying Swords’ Lead Asian Film Award Nominations". WSJ.com. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
- "The Flowers of War Acquired by Wrekin Hill Entertainment". MovieWeb.com. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- "Poster for THE FLOWERS OF WAR is beautiful!". GeekTyrant.com. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- "Win advance screening passes to see The Flowers of War". WashingtonCityPaper.com. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
- "13 Flowers of Nanjing (TBA) – Running Time, Budget, Production Details". MovieInsider.com. Retrieved August 3, 2011.
- "First Look: Christian Bale in "The 13 Flowers of Nanjing"". WorstPreviews.com. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
- "OSCARS: Controversy Emerges As Deadline For Foreign-Language Film Entries Looms". Deadline.com. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
- "The Journey To The Screen". TheFlowersOfWarTheMovie.com. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
- "'The Flowers of War': A special case for China's film industry". China.org.cn. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
- "Filming ‘The Flowers of War,’ World Class Team Recreate Nanjing". ToonariPost.com. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
- Rohter, Larry (December 21, 2011). "Zhang Yimou and the Challenges of Filming in China". Nytimes.com. Retrieved February 2, 2012.
- "Zhang Yimou’s WWII Film With Christian Bale Retitled ‘The Flowers of War’". SlashFilm.com. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
- McClintock, Pamela (November 30, 2011). "An Auteur + This Actor = Game Change". HollywoodReporter.com. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- "Flowers Of War trailer 2". DailyMotion.com. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
- "The Flowers of War – Trailer 2". TheFilmInformant.com. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
- "The Flowers Of War Trailer Online". EmpireOnline.com. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- "'Flowers of War' to receive late-December Oscar-qualifying release". Ew.com. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- "Chinese exhibitors to boycott Zhang Yimou's Flowers of War". AllBusiness.com. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- "Exhibitors make peace with War". FilmBiz.asia. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- Coonan, Clifford (November 28, 2011). "'Flowers of War' dispute defused". Variety.com. Retrieved December 4, 2011.
- Watts, Jonathan; McCurry, Justin (December 15, 2011). "China banks on bloody blockbuster to win friends … and Oscars". London: Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
- "Zhang Yimou's The Flowers Of War triumps at China's box office". FMovieMag.com. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
- "Christian Bale-Led The Flowers of War Takes Top Spot at Chinese Box Office". Reelz.com. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
- "'Flowers of War' Top Grossing Film of 2011". ChineseFilms.cn. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
- "Christian Bale's 'Flowers of War' is a box-office smash in China". Ew.com. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
- "Mainland Box Office Performance in Second Week 2012". chinesefilms.cn. Retrieved January 20, 2012.
- "The Flowers of War (2011)". RottenTomatoes.com. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
- "The Flowers of War". Metacritic.com. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
- "THE FLOWERS OF WAR Review". TwitchFilm.com. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
- "The Flowers of War – Inside Movies Since 1920". BoxOfficeMagazine.com. Retrieved January 10, 2012.
- "The Flowers of War: the price of innocence in a world gone mad". Toronto.com. Retrieved July 25, 2012.
- "Flowers of War". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
- "6th AFA Nominees and Winners". AsianFilmAwards.asia. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
- "The 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards NOMINATIONS". GoldenGlobes.org. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
- "The 31st Hong Kong Film Awards winners list" (in Chinese). Hong Kong Film Awards Association. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
- "MPSE Golden Reel Award Winners Announced". AWN.com. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
- "The Flowers of War Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
- "DVD Release Date". Moviefone.com. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
- The Flowers of War at the Internet Movie Database
- The Flowers of War at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Flowers of War at Metacritic
- The Flowers of War at Box Office Mojo