Christian Bale in Flowers of War.
The Flowers of War, a new Chinese film starring Christian Bale, is a watershed for China’s ambitious film industry, says David Gritten.
A wartime epic involving heroism and self-sacrifice, the Chinese film The Flowers of War arrives in Britain trailing impressive credentials.
It is the most expensive film ever made in China, with a budget equivalent to $90m (£58m). And it’s the third most successful film in Chinese boxoffice history, grossing $97m, impressive in a country where cinema admission prices outside the biggest cities are modest.
It is directed by China’s best-known film-maker Zhang Yimou, who brought films as varied as Hero, The House of Flying Daggers, Ju Dou and his masterpiece Raise the Red Lantern to the screen, and oversaw the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. In addition, the film was China’s entry for this year’s Oscars.
However, The Flowers of War has a greater significance, as the forerunner of a new wave of Chinese films conceived with one eye on the international marketplace. China’s film industry is currently in a bullish mood, and despite its vast population, hundreds of millions of them as yet untapped as potential film-goers, has set its sights far beyond its borders.
This ambition is evident from its casting, with a bona fide Western star in the person of Christian Bale heading the cast. He plays John Miller, an American drifter who finds himself in Nanjing in 1937, just as invading forces of the imperial Japanese army arrive to lay waste to the city and slaughter 250,000 inhabitants.