Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nanking 2007

Of the three movies about the infamous massacre ( the others being City of Life and Death (2010), ARTE's Rape of Nanking),  the present one is the clearest, combining footage with the accounts of Chinese, Japanese and Western eye witnesses. Japan invaded China in 1937 and following the fall of Shanghai, Nanking was first brought to it's knees by aerial bombardment and then the army entered the capital city to carry out an unprecedented pogrom involving an estimated 200,000 deaths and 20,000 rapes over a period of several months. Due to the heroic efforts of a group of foreigners ( John Rabe, a saintly Nazi businessman, the Schindler of Nanking; Miss Vautrin, a Christian missionary; John Magee, another minister; Bob Wilson, a doctor) a Safety Zone was created in the heart of the city with UN concurrence leading to saving 250,000 lives.

In contrast to the industrial efficiency of the Nazi machine of extermination, the scene in Nanking is one of  bestiality at it's unimaginable lowest-women and girls bayoneted after rape, children bayoneted, crowds machine-gunned and the survivors bayonneted. It is alarming to discover that we human beings have such potential for bestiality, that evil can exist in such collectivised form, and even gain social sanction and admiration within the social mass comprising the perpetrators. The Japanese officers turn the eyes away, their embassy offers lame justification.

The film skillfully weaves narration and footage to present a coherent and adequate portrayal of one of the most goresome chapters of modern history. Since we have become immunized to images, the narrative form which the movie eloquently conveys the enormity through gestures, expressions, and tears. This enactment of the written words of the witnesses, victims and still nonchalant perpetrators ( the capacity for contrition seems ill-developed in human beings) is what gives the documentary it's force of reality. The film is balanced and engrossing, with no attempt at exaggeration or dramatization (there is no scope for that).


Anonymous said...

Did you see City of Life and Death? As for this film, I will certainly try and seek it out at some point, despite its horrific subject matter. I think Iris Chang would be pleased that several movies about the Rape have come out recently (may she rest in peace).

S M Rana said...

Yes, but sans subs so a second view is mandatory. This one has much more of a documentary touch, and more informative, so you don't get the feeling of being emotionally steered. In any case, war is a horror hard for a person in his normal senses to digest.

Anonymous said...

Very true. BTW, I think I saw this documentary on the shelf at my local library. Do you happen to know if this was originally on cable TV? The one I saw was just labeled Nanking.

S M Rana said...

It's directed by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman.