THE FLOWERS OF WAR, a movie about how a group of prostitutes hide with a group of young female students in a cathedral during the Nanjing Massacre. But, they sacrifice their own lives to protect the students from the Japanese aggressors during the Second World War.
In an exclusive interview with KTSF, Zhang Yimou says the reason he chose to adapt Yan Geling’s novel among the countless materials depicting the Nanjing Massacre is because the story is told from the point of view of a young girl.
Zhang says, “From the eyes of a young girl, she remembers the beautiful moments under cruel circumstances. This gives the director space to create a form of melancholic beauty.”
Zhang’s team went to all of China’s major cities to search for a new young actress to play the role of Yu Mo and finally decided on Ni Ni, a new graduate in mass media studies. Ni Ni has since spent two years to prepare for the role through lessons in English, movement, body language and speech training. Ni Ni says she has received lots of encouragement from everybody during production.
“Director Zhang has trusted me with a lot. When I could not express what he wanted, he was very patient and explained the scene to me many times over. He did this, not through the walkie-talkies, but personally came to me with a smile and spoke to me, telling me what he needed from me. This was very heart-warming.”
Zhang commends Ni for working hard to give her best performance. Zhang is also very satisfied working with Hollywood’s A-lister Christian Bale.
Zhang says, “Bale was prepared for all the details in a scene, and he gave me many options on how to play a scene. He even asked me how else I wanted him to play a scene. From a director’s point of view, this is very satisfying!”
With a budget of about $100 million, THE FLOWERS OF WAR, has been selected to represent China in competition for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. Zhang contends that he does not have control over how well the film will perform at the awards. “What matters more is if the movie is a good one. The audience will not forget a good movie. He or she will be moved and will remember this movie. This, I think, is the highest honor,” adds Zhang.
THE FLOWERS OF WAR opens in Bay Area theatres on December 23.
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