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Nanking

51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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 of 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.

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The diaries and letters of Western observers, combined with the testimonies of still-living Chinese eyewitnesses, create an intimate and wrenchingly compelling depiction of the Japanese invasion of Nanking in 1937. Nanking focuses on the Safety Zone established by a bizarre combination of American missionaries and Nazi businessmen, a haven that saved the lives of over 200,000 Chinese too poor to flee the marauding army. The words of these missionaries and businessmen are read by a cast of famous actors, including Woody Harrelson, Jurgen Prochnow (Das Boot), and Mariel Hemingway (Manhattan); this could have turned out unbearably precious, but the restraint and respect of the performances allows the voices of the writers to come through with understated power. The documentary is filled with gruesome details ("The dead covered the ground like a straw mat," declares a Japanese soldier) and the atrocities at times verge on unendurable; there's a reason this occupation is commonly held up as a definitive example of man's inhumanity to man. But throughout the horror are glimpses of astonishing courage and the deepest generosity, some of it driven by what can only be described as fierce pacifism. There are startlingly instructive moments (for example, while soldiers raped and looted the city, the Japanese army made propaganda films of soldiers giving candy to hungry children), but the culminating emotional impact of the documentary goes beyond anything didactic. The invasion of Nanking provokes controversy even now, 70 years later. Nanking is unlikely to lay denials to rest, but it's a potent and valuable reminder of the degradation of war. --Bret Fetzer

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Product Details

  • Actors: Hugo Armstrong, Rosalind Chao, Stephen Dorff, John Getz, Mariel Hemingway
  • Directors: Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman
  • Writers: Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman, Elizabeth Bentley
  • Producers: Bill Guttentag, Dylan Nelson, Izumi Tanaka
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Full Screen, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Chinese, English, Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Velocity / Thinkfilm
  • DVD Release Date: April 29, 2008
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ZN71GS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,836 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Nanking" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 24, 2007
Format: DVD
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.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J Huang on October 18, 2008
Format: DVD
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.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Randy Keehn VINE VOICE on June 1, 2010
Format: DVD
I have read about the "Rape of Nanking" in a book by the same name. I also read a book on the Tokyo War Crimes trials that covered the heinous incident among the many other WWII-era crimes of the Japanese Imperial Army. These accounts were disturbing to say the least. It was the porpaganda of Japanese imperialism that their conquests were intended to free their fellow Asians from the Colonialism of the Western nations. How then did they show their pan-Asian mutual interests in China? Nanking was merely the most egregious example of more than a decade of conquest and dominion.

When I saw that there was a documentary of the horrors of Nanking, I quickly rented it for a visual background of the sordid events. There are a number of gruesome and troubling pictures although they were properly limited. The written record of the crime tells more than the limited video account. Much of the written record of the rape and murder came from a group of European educators, missionaries, businessmen and doctors. Their efforts to save as many of the potential victims in an international safe zone were largely successful and were a main focus of the documentary.

What bothered me about the format of "Nanking" was the decision to have actors portray the Europeans who wrote about the events while using actual Chinese survivors relate their own personal stories. The mix didn't work at all in my opinion. There was enough film of the Europeans to use along with still photos as background for voice narration of the accounts. Watching the actors sitting in a studio while speaking selections from the written accounts detracted from the video accounts of horror and the testamonials of the actual survivors. The film's depiction of heros, villans, victims, survivors and Hollywood actors might have worked for a fund-raiser but not for a documentary.
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