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The Flower of War

In: Film and Music

Submitted By Daomei
Words 1869
Pages 8
To date, World War II was the world’s worst event in human history. Colonisation is one of the reasons as to why World War II was the most horrific. Many Asian nations such as Korea, Vietnam and the part of China and so on were colonised by the European powers and Japan during World War II. And it had been raging for more than four years. Although several Asian nations were decolonised by the European powers and Japan after World War II, the wounds of the war were too serious; millions of people died and women raped and killed. Survived people still have suffered permanent injury from disease, psychological trauma of the war and social ostracism. Now, today’s Asian cinemas have been portrayed as traumatic memories of military terror to remind the history. This essay shed light on the significance of trauma in both films; The Flowers of War and The White Silk Dress in connection with the history of Korea.
The Flowers of War
In 1937, Nanking (today more commonly called Nanjing) Massacre was enforced for 6 weeks by Japanese troops. Millions of Chinese people cruelly died regardless of age or sex. It is also called as The Rape of Nanking, because the Japanese troops raped and killed a great number of Chinese women (Chambers 2010). The Chinese movie, the Flowers of War shows the bald historical fact of Nanjing Massacre in 1937. It is a remake of the Chinese novella, 13 Flowers of Nanjing.
Then China’s Nationalist party developed friendly relations with the Nazi Germany in order to be provided military assistance (Hiromichi 2008). As a result, the Chinese military’s equipments such as weapons, helmets, uniforms and boots were the same as the Nazi had which were well defined in the movie. With German equipments and tactics, Chinese military invaded Shanghai in August 1937 and resisted the Japanese military which marched towards Nanjing (Hiromichi 2008). To break through the Chinese military’s line, the Japanese military scorched earth policy and massacre innocent people. After the capture of Nanjing, the Japanese killed many Chinese men and raped Chinese women under the pretext of hunting sheep-dipped Chinese soldiers out.
John Miller was a mortician who was an obnoxious drinker and crazed about money. In a word, he was such a good-for-nothing type of man. However, he turned into a brave and responsible man after he dressed up like a priest and shaved his messy beard with Father Ingleman’s shaving kit. Therefore, priest’s uniform and the shaving kit can be described as a metonym, symbolism and motivation that why he decided to be from a good-for-nothing type of man to hero. In the middle of the film, Colonel Haesegawa apologised to John and the students at the convent for invading the Catholic Church and he gave them some food and played the Japanese folk song, My Home with organ, also he ordered a platoon to guard the Church for their security. Although Colonel Haesegawa seemed to be a man of culture, actually he was intended to lock up the students until the celebration of Nanjing’s occupation. Therefore, the film shows the characteristics of Japanese who are antilogous and deceitful. Moreover, we could also recognise the brutality of the Japanese military. In the film, Dou snuck out to get pipa strings with Lan and she wanted to play the pipa for Pu Sheng, who had a hard life and had nothing. But one string was not enough to play, so she did it for him. Unfortunately, they were caught by a Japanese platoon and Lan was shot to death and the platoon raped Dou and killed her eventually. The most brutal part was that although Lan was shot to death, the platoon ripped up her clothes and put a wooden stick into her crotch which was the most atrocious acts and disrespectful to the person who died. Not only in the film, but also in reality, they committed these kinds of atrocious acts to the Chinese (Picture 1). The book, Lest We Forget: Nanjing Massacre, 1937’ by Zhigeng (1995) said, “Many Chinese women refugees cut off their long hair and some even shaved their heads and wrapped them in coarse blue cloth. To hide their feminine figures they put on baggy cotton-padded long black gowns. All these efforts had only one purpose – to protect themselves from the ravages of Japanese troops” (Picture 2).
In the Flowers of War, there are three main metonyms which could be described as the relationship of the Korean history. First of all, blood-soaked pipa strings might be the symbol of not only just the Chinese women who suffered from the Japanese’s sexual urges and brutality but also all Asian women who were forced into prostitution for the Japanese army during the World War II. In fact, most estimates of the number of these “comfort women” range from approximately 50,000 to 200,000. A majority of them were Korean women and followed by Chinese, Taiwanese, Filipino, Dutch, and Indonesian women made up most of the rest (Niksch 2007). Second of all, a broken piece of glass could be interpreted as the resolute determination and patriotism of 13 prostitutes which is reminiscent of Non-Gae in Korea. During the Japanese invasion of Joseon in 1593, Non-Gae lured a Japanese general to a cliff and threw herself into the Nam River below while holding the general tight in her arms, causing both of them to drown (Jinju City 2009). Furthermore, Major Li and his platoon did not have adequate weapons to destroy the Japanese’s tanks, so they threw themselves with a bunch of grenades at the tanks to stop it. And, they wetted their heavy clothes and used them as body armours because they needed to approach the tanks to destroy it. These could be considered as the resolute determination and patriotism as well. They are also reminiscent of many Korean independence activists. Both have laid down their lives for their countries.
The film consisted of three different languages; English, Chinese, and Japanese to maximise its realism. Also, slow motion technique had been used when anyone got shot. The filmmakers might have intended to show its intensity but the technique was overused in the entire movie which made the audience annoyed. Another interesting technique was voice-over narration. One of the young students called, Shu provided perspective via voice-over narration which helped the audience to understand the story much more easily.
The White Silk Dress
During the World War II, Vietnam was governed by the France military (Le 2011). The White Silk Dress was set in this period. In the film, there was a scene of attack Governor’s house by the Viet Minh organisation which showed very unsettled society of Vietnam in this time. The Viet Minh organisation was set up and was led by communist Ho Chi Minh from 1946 (Le 2011). Gu was one of the Governor’s servants who managed to escape with his lover Dan from the Viet Minh’s attack and they evacuated to the South to avoid it. Shortly afterwards, they met a small group of French army. While they were hiding in a bunch of corpses, the French army looked at the bunch of corpses and said “The Viet Minh want freedom and this is what they got.” This scene can be described as the relationship of the Japanese occupation period in Korea which was a time of tribulation for Korea. And many patriots joined in the independence movement to the death against Japanese imperialism. And the Governor could be defined as one of the pro-French collaborators like pro-Japanese groups in Korea. Although Gu and Dan started a family, the country was devastated by constant warfare and the people were becoming exhausted. They used to eat porridge rice instead of rice and Gu thought he was not just cut out for paternity. He sublimated his sorriness for the family into a mournful piece of music. So the musical instrument, called Dan Nui was the only way to express his feeling in difficult times. One of the daughters dressed up as Charlie Chaplin for their parents to laugh which can be interpreted as not only the symbol of peace but also the definition of time period. In fact, according to Charlie Chaplin’s biography, he was awarded World Peace Council Prize in 1954. In the middle of the film, Dan was captured by some polices in the late night and questioned which parties she was working for. While being questioned by the police, she was brutally assaulted several times. This was reminiscent of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) in the past which abused their powers to many innocent Koreans at that time.
There are some metonyms that led for the audience to believe that the family of Gu and Dan were in the middle of the war. First of all, Gu and his daughter took fish in a net and they took a grenade which is one of typical symbols of war. Second of all, the film was applied to the sound of a roar of guns in several scenes. Furthermore, a military helicopter and bombardment of school can be described as the relationship of the war.
The White Silk Dress had such impressive techniques which were able to portray the Vietnam War at a very high level. It is the first Vietnamese movie to use the ‘flying-camera’ technique which is able to show its grand scale to the audience. Moreover, the filmmakers hired hundreds of extras in order to create the line of evacuees fleeing which was a realistic description. The most interesting technique was that the filmmakers put red screen with a roar of guns at the end of the movie which emphasised that a war is the most barbarous thing. It also showed how bad the Vietnam War was by citation of the real Vietnam War resources alternately (Picture 3).
All of colonisation, imperialism and massacre are the outgrowths of World War II, and consequently millions of innocent people had to die due to the war and survivors have been psychologically traumatized until now. The war turned the countries, families, friends and almost everything into ruins. Although the colonialist’s conduct was inexcusable Germany has apologised about starting World War II and has purged their faults with adequate monetary compensations. However, Japan reluctantly purged their faults with preposterous monetary compensations and they even refuse to express regret for past wrongdoings. Also, all the war victims including bereaved families, comfort women and dead colonists demand a sincere apology from the Japanese government first, before making full monetary compensations. To receive an apology from Japan, many people protest against Japan over the history and film is one of the effective methods to achieve it. Although both films have different characteristics and portray different topics, those absolutely show the wounds of the war and share their loss of everything in their societies. Mother Teresa said, “In the short term, there may be winners and losers in the war that we all dread. But that never can, nor never will justify the suffering, pain and loss of life your weapons will cause.”

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