Film: The Flowers Of War

A 2011 historical drama film made by Zhang Yimou, The Flowers of War (or Nanjing Heroes/13 Flowers of Nanjing) is set in 1937 during the Rape of Nanjing. An American mortician, John Miller (played by Christian Bale) is caught in the conflict and seeks shelter at a convent school full of terrified school girls, as do a number of prostitutes who take up residence in the convent's basement.

At first simply wanting to be paid for the funeral he came to perform, Miller reluctantly pretends to be a priest in order to protect the girls and buy enough time for him to fix the convent's broken truck, although there isn't room in it for all of them. But, as the Japanese atrocities grow ever more terrible and the students are threatened, Yu Mo (the de facto leader of the prostitutes, played by Ni Ni) and her fellows take it upon themselves to save the girls from a horrible fate.

This film provides examples of:

  • Better to Die Than Be Killed: The school girls try to throw themselves off the bell tower of the convent rather than let the Japanese get their hands on them again. And when the prostitutes and George are about to set off, they arm themselves with sharp fragments of mirror, probably so they can commit suicide rather than be raped to death.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: The women of the Qian Huai River and George are taken away by the Japanese; while their fate is left unclear we can probably guess what happened to them, and it isn't pleasant. But Miller manages to get the girls out of Nanjing and to safety, so their sacrifice wasn't in vain.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Miller uses his skills as a mortician to make the women, and George, look more like young girls, so as to decieve the guards.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: George and the prostitutes take the places of the school girls, fully aware of what will happen to them.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Inverted, at first; when we first meet the women they embody the Chinese stereotype of prostitutes: "Prostitutes never care about a falling nation, they sing and dance while others are dying." Very soon, however, we're shown what's beneath the veneer; damaged, wounded young women who just want to survive. And, in the end, they decide to play the trope straight and defy the stereotype by taking the place of the school girls.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Shu's father, Mr. Meng, cooperates with the Japanese, and she despises him for it. He's portrayed sympathetically, though, as he helps Miller to repair the truck and when he's killed, Miller tells Shu insistently that he was a good man and regrets there was no time to give him a proper funeral.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Japanese definitely would. They try to rape the girls, and kill one of them by throwing her down the stairs.
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