Nanking is a powerful reminder of the heartbreaking toll that war takes on the innocent, and a testament to the courage and conviction of a few individuals determined to act in the face of evil. The film tells the story o... more »f the Japanese invasion of Nanking, China in the early days of World War II and focuses on the efforts of a small group of unarmed Westerners who established a Safety Zone where over 200,000 Chinese found refuge. The events of the film are told through deeply moving interviews with Chinese survivors, archival footage, and chilling testimonies of Japanese soldiers, interwoven with staged readings of the Westerners? letters and diaries as performed by Jurgen Prochnow, Woody Harrelson, Stephen Dorff, and Mariel Hemingway, among others.« less
Inspiration amidst the despair - a history lesson to remembe
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 12/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1937, before America entered the War, the Japanese invaded the city of Nanking, China. Most of the privileged people fled. The less fortunate were trapped. Horrible atrocities were committed. More than 200,000 people were brutally slaughtered and more than 20,000 women were raped. However, if it were not for a brave group of Westerners who considered it their mission to help the people and therefore did not flee, there might have been even more carnage.
This powerful documentary tells this story, based on the diaries and letters from those few committed Westerners. Most of them were missionaries and the one woman, Minnie Vautrin, ran a girls' college. There was also a German businessman who was a Nazi. In addition to interviews with some survivors, as well as historical footage, the filmmaker used a staged reading of the diaries and letters of these Westerners by a variety of professional actors as a device to tell this story. Woody Harrelson is one of these actors as well as Mariel Hemmingway. Jurgen Prochnow was cast in the role of John Rabe the German businessman who, at one point, wishes he could let Adolph Hitler know about these Japanese outrages because he considered Hitler a compassionate man who would not let such atrocities exist.
The filmmakers did an excellent job of organizing a tremendous amount of material. The film was well paced, clear, to the point, and didn't have a wasted word or image. Most of the time there were tears in my eyes and yet the underlying story of how the courage of the brave few who kept the carnage from being even worse, turned the film into moving story instead of letting it sink into absolute despair.
This story is a part of history that should not be forgotten, and a story of inspiration amidst the despair.
Nanking is a truly great film. I give it nothing by accolades. "
The Purple Mountains on Fire
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 05/28/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I, like many other Westerners, first heard of the Rape of Nanjing ten years ago when Iris Chang released her book Rape of Nanking. I, of course, knew that Japan had been at war with China and that the Japanese Imperial Army had done a number of despicable things in China, but it was this book that really opened my eyes to what Japan did in China and had a major enough effect on me to make me dedicate my life to the study of Japanese and Chinese history, literature, and film. While I have become aware that Chang's book is overblown in some ways, blaming the "Shinto Sub Cult" for the ways the Japanese treated the Chinese, it acted as an important catalyst for historians to truly dig into the issue and unearth atrocities that had been hidden by not only the Japanese, but the Chinese Communist Party, and America as well. With a number of scholarly tomes, essays, and translations having been released now, hopefully the world will not only gain a better conception of what happened in China, but why it happened.
Of course, more people are likely to watch a filmic version of the Rape of Nanjing than read a hefty tome, but unfortunately although there are a few limited release documentaries, and the films that have reached a broader audience such as Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre almost revel enough in the gore and bloodshed to make the films more fit to be in someone's splattercore library than as an important bit of media.
The documentary Nanking was financed and conceptualized by AOL vice-chairman Ted Leonsis after he read Rape of Nanking on vacation and learned of Iris Chang's suicide. Instead of just stringing together news footage, photos, and films of the period, Leonsis and the directors Gutenberg and Dan Sturman casted various American and international actors, including Mariel Hemmingway, Woody Harrelson, Jürgen Prochnow, and Michelle Krusiec, to give voice to a number of foreign missionaries, businessmen, and doctors who suffered through the Japanese attack upon Nanjing, but did their best to protect the Chinese citizens and military deserters from the brutality of the Japanese soldiers. Also, there are a number of interviews with Chinese survivors of the Rape
Through their roles of reading the diaries of the missionaries George Fitch, Minnie Vautrin, and John Magee, the doctor Bob Wilson, and the Nazi businessman John Rabe, the actors give voice to these great people who risked their very lives to save the people of the foreign country that had become their home. Through their words, and the ample number of photos and films, the viewer can vicariously experience the travesties they experienced which would shorten all of their lives after the left China.
Nanking is of course quite graphic in its detailing of the suffering of the Chinese people at the hands up the Japanese soldiers, but it also shows the strength of what a few can do against the oppression of many. A good albeit horrifying film, it should be added to the libraries of those interested in history and the bitter relationship between China and Japan"
War horrors, missionary heroism
Daniel B. Clendenin | www.journeywithjesus.net | 04/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In August of 1937 Japan bombed and then invaded China's capital city of Nanking. In the ensuing six weeks some 200,000 people, mainly citizens, were slaughtered; tens of thousands of others endured unspeakable atrocities that included mass executions, torture, widespread rape, burning and looting. This documentary film draws on archival film footage, interviews with Chinese survivors and Japanese soldiers who witnessed the atrocities, and then the letters and diaries of a small group of westerners who stayed behind to help the Chinese despite the orders of the American Embassy to evacuate. These westerners, mainly missionaries, saved some 250,000 Chinese by establishing a two square mile "Safety Zone" in Nanking. The film switches back and forth between the Japanese atrocities and the heroism of the three missionaries, George Fitch (whose secret 16mm movies documented the horrors), surgeon Bob Wilson, and Minnie Vautrin who headed the Ginling Women's College; and then their leader, the Nazi businessman John Rabe (whose 800-page diary became a key piece of evidence). To a person the Chinese still venerate these four people as their saviors. After the war a tribunal convicted twenty-five Japanese leaders of war crimes. Warning-- parts of this film are very hard to watch."
Many thanks to the people who made the great film
J Huang | 10/19/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a Chinese, I would like to say, many thanks to the people who made the great film. The truth needs to be known to the whole world. I'm also deeply indebted to those Western people who helped Chinese in our difficult time. I would like to see someday people in Nanking erect monument for those great people. There's no reason Chinese people deserve such cruelty. Shaped by the teachings of Confucianism and Taoism, Chinese people traditionally like to make peace and harmony with neighbors. If you look back Chinese history, it's always ethnic tribes who attacked and invaded China, not the other way around. After years' ruling, the attackers were often assimilated with Chinese, and became Chinese themselves eventually. That's the magic of China. On the other hand, the Japanese people are militant in nature and by training. They committed such horrendous crime, but even till now, they refuse to acknowledge what they did and never apologized. Simply, take a look of their banking system. After bubble burst, rather than acknowledge their bad debt, they used all their means to cover it. It's no wonder their economy is still dragging along after 18 years. Their decade-long economic deflation reflects their shameless nature exactly. Personally I hope the new generation of Japanese can learn from their forefather's crime, and make contribution to the world peace instead. But history rhythms, that could be my hopeless wish. Their prime minister continues to bow to the soul of war criminal, Tojo. In contrast, the Germany Chancellor kneed down to in front of the Polish Getto Victim Memorial to beg forgiveness for what Hitler did. The most hated liars are those whose revise history.
War is crime. War not only costs life of both sides, but also wipes off treasures and capitals accumulated through generations. The first and second world war exhausted the great British Empire. The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) destroyed France, the most powerful country from 1700-1800. The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) destroyed Greece Empire. I am afraid the current Iraq War could abolish the great power the United States holds, causing unexpected consequences. We need to unite together, opposing all the wars. "
J. H. Minde | Boca Raton, Florida and Brooklyn, New York | 02/02/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In 1937 the Japanese occupied Nanking, a bustling city then the capital of China, and reduced it to rubble. In the process, they murdered more than a quarter of a million Chinese men, women, and children in a six week period. In horrible, documented accounts (many on film clips edited into this picture), the Japanese military bayoneted infants and pregnant women, eviscerated children, machine-gunned men en masse, burned hundreds alive, forced the living to copulate with the dead, buried people alive, and raped girls and women of all ages from infancy to senescence, many of whom were killed thereafter (and when no females were around, young boys sufficed). The Allies later determined that there were at least 20,000 rapes committed in the first month of Japanese occupation alone (an admittedly low number; some sources put the number at over 80,000).
In the midst of all the destruction, a determined group of Westerners established a "Safety Zone" in the city into which crowded tens of thousands. Most of the leaders of the "Safety Zone" were missionaries, but some were German Nazi Party members who were sickened by the sights they saw. Although the "Safety Zone" had no legal status, the Japanese largely respected its bounds and respected the people who had established it. Together, these righteous people managed to save about 250,000 Chinese.
NANKING is a document which memorializes the fearsome "Rape of Nanking" in image and word. Several well-known actors portray the missionaries (not in action, but as commentators, reading from diaries, reports, and letters). Interviews with survivors and now-aged former Japanese soldiers also make up the substance of this film.
It is sad to hear that the Missionary Dean of the local girls' College, Miss Minnie Vautin "The Angel of Nanking," who protected hundreds of young Chinese women from depredation, later committed suicide when the horrors of World War II overwhelmed her.
It is even more sad to hear of John Rabe, a confirmed Nazi Party member, who wrote to Hitler in outrage, asking that he do something to protect the helpless Chinese, believing, as he said, that the Nazi leader was concerned with the needs of the poor in Germany, and therefore, he assumed, elsewhere; Rabe's films and photos were confiscated and Rabe was sent to a Concentration Camp when he returned to Germany (Rabe was later sent to the Gulag by the Soviets). He ended his days living off donations from thankful Nankingese citizens whom he'd saved, a kind of Oriental Oskar Schindler.
Still, the essence of this film comes across in the searing images of tortured bodies and minds in every frame. An almost forgotten episode, Nanking was the site of Japan's own Final Solution, a genocide which (in 1937) was unparalleled. Unfortunately for humanity, it was not to remain so for very long."