[Movie Review] The Flowers of War (金陵十三钗)

The Flowers of War movie poster
The Flowers of War movie poster

The Flowers of War (金陵十三钗), is the latest big screen offering from international film auteur, Zhang Yimou (张艺谋). I missed the omy.sg preview screening on 19 March and wanted to kick myself in the butt for that.

Thanks to the folks from Shaw, Rachel and I made time to catch the movie yesterday.

The Flowers of War boasts an international cast of acclaimed Academy Award winner Christian Bale, Ni Ni (倪妮), Zhang Xinyi, Tong Dawei, Atsuro Watabe, Shigeo Kobayashi and Cao Kefan. It is set in 1937, Nanjing, China, during the “Rape of Nanjing”, at the time of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

An American mortician, a group of teenage schoolgirls, and 14 flamboyant prostitutes. The most unlikely mix of people meeting during the most unfortunate of circumstances leading to one powerful story of love, war, and sacrifice.

The film is based on the novel 13 Flowers of Nanjing, by Geling Yan (严歌苓) and has received a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in the 69th Golden Globe Awards, as well as numerous nominations in the Asian Film Awards.

Lead actress Ni Ni (倪妮), a former student at the Nanjing Broadcasting Institute of the Communication University of China, has also clinched the Best Newcomer Award in the Asian Film Awards for her acting debut as prostitute Yu Mo in this movie.

Rachel and I love Yan’s writings. I have written a glowing book review on her other book, The Uninvited (不速之客). Set in contemporary capitalist China, the narration explores the social ills and wide inequality between the richest and the poorest in China, seen through the eyes of Dan, a male peasant posing as a journalist for free food at media events.

It would be interesting to see Yan’s writings brought to life on the big screen by Zhang Yimou.

The movie did not disappoint. There were many nail-biting, heart-wrenching moments and I could hear audible sobs coming from all corners of the cinemas.

No words can fully capture the atrocity committed by the Japanese soldiers invading Nanking. This movie brings our the courage in humanity in the most adverse of situations among unlikely bedfellows.

Although the cast was made up of mostly new actors and actresses, all of them put up very solid performances, up against seasoned Hollywood actor, Christian Bale.

I am not going into the story line to avoid giving away the plot.

The movie is definitely worth catching, even on weekend ticket fares. It got Rachel and equally disturbed and moved at the same time to be still talking about it over dinner, two hours after watching.

An advanced warning: if you are the kind who cannot take cruelty, bring a few packets of tissue into the cinema.


The Flowers of War (Rated NC16 for Violence & Sexual Violence) has been showing in Singapore cinemas since 29 March. Go catch it before the movie ends it’s run!

I am so captivated by this movie that I am trying to locate the original book on which the movie is based on. If anyone seen it at a local bookstore, drop me a comment below or email me. Thank you very much!

2 thoughts on “[Movie Review] The Flowers of War (金陵十三钗)”

  1. The original Chinese version 金陵十三钗,I S B N:9787561352564, is published by Shaanxi Normal University Press. The UK edition, which should be available in Singpore, is published as The Flowers of War by Harvill Secker, a division of Random House, ISBN: 1846555892, ISBN-13: 9781846555893.

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