Monday, July 30, 2012

34. John Rabe (2009) *

City of War: The Story of John Rabe 

Nanking, China 1937

Based on the true story of the life of John Rabe, a 'jolly good fellow' and Nazi chairman of Siemens, Nanking, this film provides a fictionalised account of the Rape of Nanking by the Japanese. Focusing on the international community remaining in the city it outlines how Rabe and his friends set up an international safe zone saving the lives of 200,000 Chinese men, women and children. 

The film is pretty long, over two hours, but its high production value keeps it interesting.  The film does feel sanitised in parts.  Despite the rape of over 20,000 Chinese women in the first three days in Nanking, no woman is raped in the movie.  Why did the director decide not to show the graphic sexual violence?  Would it have made the movie unwatchable?  Worse than the execution of thousands of Chinese soldiers?  What does it mean not to show the sexual violence?

Apart from issues of representing sexual violence, the film also raised an issue on individual criminal responsibility.  It firmly places the blame of the Nanking massacre on Prince Asaka leaving Matsui Iwane with a minor role.  However, Iwane was the general prosecuted in the Tokyo War Crimes Trial for his role on war crimes in Nanking and the only one to be prosecuted separately for the plight of comfort women (well woman and Dutch). 

Made by Florian Gallenberger, the boasts an international cast including, Ulrich Tukur (The Lives of Others), Daniel Bruhl (Goodbye Lenin (2003), The Edukators (2007), Steve Buscemi (Fargo (1996), Reservoir Dogs (1992), The Big Lebowski (1998)), Jingchu Zhang (Rush Hour 3 (2007)) and Akira Emoto (Zatoichi). 

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