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Movie stereotypes don’t reflect history

By Wallace Xu (Global Times)

08:43, July 06, 2012

When we think of World War II films, our minds immediately go to titles like Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, and Life is Beautiful, which showcase not only explosions and battles, but also the glory of human goodness in a dark time.

The Western allies' achievements have largely been showcased in these films. The Chinese people also made great contributions to the global victory over fascism. However, we still need more works of art and entertainment that can help the world better understand what happened during the Japanese invasion of China.

Hatred doesn't make good movies. We need to pay attention to character and details. Some of us are familiar with films produced in the early 1960s, like Tunnel Warfare and Landmine Warfare. The optimistic spirit of the movies is quite encouraging, but their characterization is deeply simplistic. The Japanese invaders are portrayed as both evil and moronic.

Many latter products simply copy their predecessors with a blithe disregard for historical or psychological realism. One heroic sniper is shown fending off hundreds of enemies with automatic weapons. This kind of distortion is not a good representation of history.

A good work should also function as a mirror for people today to contemplate the nation of war. Some Chinese directors have made attempts, like Lu Chuan's Nanking! Nanking!. Lu believes movies are a universal language, and he wanted to chronicle the history from a more comprehensive angle, instead of simply demonizing the Japanese.

This is a sign of progress, but, while many supported Lu, he was severely criticized by others for showing some Japanese soldiers in a humane light. He has reportedly received death threats. I certainly understand that 75 years is still short for some people to get over the emotional fury and embrace historical tolerance.

However, it is time that more perspectives should be adopted to view that part of history. This is also one way for us to cure our national scars and bid farewell to the historical burdens that restrain us.


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