May 20, 2008

Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre (1995)

Some movies set out with the intention to shock the viewer with their graphic depictions of violence, and granted many of them succeed. However, the majority of them are rooted deep within a fantasy world, made up stories depicting fictionalised events, and believe me I see nothing at all wrong with that. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, but I do enjoy extreme cinema, I like to see how far the envelope can be pushed, to see new limits reached, to see the viewer tested. When a movie is based on actual events though, and if it is done well, then the effect can be devestating to watch. This is very much the case with Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre.

Black Sun is a movie about the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, and subsequent attack on the town of Nanjing. The attack itself being more a case of open butchery than anything else as the population are systematically raped, beaten or murdered amongst other things. Or all of the above. These events are portrayed on screen with an unnerving realism at times; the film itself uses archive footage at times to add to the sense of realism, as if it was needed.

The film itself follows different strands throughout, with many different characters. The main ones though being the Japanese military, and some of their less savoury Generals, and a Chinese family where the two children and their uncle try to escape from the carnage.

This is an incredibly brutal movie, its portrayal of the horrors commited is unflinching. Whenever you think it can't get much worse it does. Although the movie itself comes across as a cross between Exploitation, Documentary and extreme propaganda it does do a good job of making you feel for the plight of the Chinese. The final few minutes or so being especially powerful with the use of music and the situation that unfolds during that scene. The film in its entirety though is an incredibly powerful and emotional journey and for the most part is incredibly well shot. In fact one of the most striking scenes is both one of the most harrowingly disturbing and at the same time beautifully shot sequences I have seen in some time. The use of colour in that one scene is terrific, yet is is also terribly sad. Without spoiling the scene, or the movie, I will just say that the scene itself occurs on a beach. You will know it when you see it, and you won't forget it.

How much of the movie is actually historically correct, and how much was artistic license is not for me to say. The massacre did happen, and from the use of some photos and footage throughout I would hazard a guess at saying that this is pretty close to what happened. This makes it all the harder to gauge this movie. Did I enjoy it? Yes I did. Whether I would call it entertainment or not is harder to say. However, I actually thought it was an incredible movie, one that I would recommend to fans of war movies, history or even those that just want to see some extremely savage acts commited upon other people. It's that sort of movie, falling, as it does, into many different categories. One thing is certain though, it is very strong stuff indeed.

Highly recommended, but be warned, it is harrowing viewing.

Rating 3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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