City of Life and Death

Original Title: 南京! 南京!
Release date: April 22, 2009
Director: Chuan Lu
Screenplay by: Chuan Lu
Cast: Ye Liu, Yuanyuan Gao, Hideo Nakaizumi, Wei Fan, Yiyan Jiang

Nanjing! Nanjing! – in its original name – shows the dramatization of the Massacre of Nanjing and other events in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War, in which the Imperial Japanese Army had just captured the then capital of the Republic of China. The massacre lasted several weeks, in which massive numbers of Chinese prisoners of war and civilians were killed. However, unlike many war movies around the world highlighting heroic acts, the film paints a crude reality for their main Chinese and Japanese characters.

The film, shot in black and white, already looks like a classic film for years to come, with gruesome war imagery that could probably compete with any action sequence in any big Hollywood film while having you in tears before the opening title appears on the screen. Though no character is truly evil, they are mostly presented as horrible human beings more concerned with raping females and thinking of going back home than the lives they are taking. Among these soldiers is sergeant Kadokawa (Hideo Nakaizumi), who is coming to terms with the violence surrounding him, and ultimately takes over his life.

The film’s biggest problem is probably its Chinese origin, meaning that a lot will be turned off by politics… or even sillier, subtitles. Do not miss the chance to see this, as it is raw with emotions and performances that will keep you thinking about the characters as real people.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

4 Responses

  1. January 20, 2014

    […] City of Life and Death – Cao Yu; He Lei […]

  2. February 5, 2014

    […] reaction may seem similar to that of those who have no idea about The Rape of Nanjing [1][2], or imagine someone who doesn’t know about World War II or Pearl Harbor. Some films you […]

  3. July 10, 2014

    […] numbers of Chinese prisoners of war and civilians were killed. The previous big production was City of Life and Death, which cost $12M USD to […]

  4. June 9, 2015

    […] Zhang Yimou’s take on the Nanjing Massacre is completely different to Lu Chuan’s 2009 City of Life and Death. Whereas City was brutal, raw and hard to swallow, Zhang Yimou does something that’s making a […]

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