Powerful and different. — 5 years ago
Nanking certainly defied what little expectations I had of the film. My dad and I went to see this on a whim since he was interested in seeing it, and it turned out to be a pretty worthwhile experience, if an unexpected one.
Being a documentary about the Japanese takeover of Nanjing, the former capital of China, during World War II, the events were overwhelmingly told through the perspective of the Caucasian foreigners that were living in Nanjing during the time, and helped to set up a Safety Zone which saved the lives of thousands of Chinese civilians. Real-life actors portray these people, reading the journals and news articles of the time. In addition, the film features interviews with actual survivors and soldiers who survived the incident to this day, as well as vintage newsreel footage.
This diverse mix of sources, on the one hand, creates a very powerful, moving documentary that sheds some light on one of the worst historical moments in contemporary Chinese history, but at the same time the use of real-life actors – including Woody Harrelson – does give the film a kind of “staged” feel. Nonetheless, it’s hard to not take the film seriously because of the severity of the events.
It’s hard to believe such an event is so widely dismissed and ignored by so many people today. It’s unreal. Hopefully this documentary will open a few eyes, but at the same time one has to realize that it’s not meant to be anti-Japanese; it’s meant to be anti-war, to show you the atrocities that people are capable of during wartime in hopes that such a thing will never happen again.