Monday, 10 September 2007

Devils on the Doorstep (2000)

Chinese title: The Nips are Coming.

I couldn't decide if I should put this in the comedy section of my list. The English title suggests that it's a horror, and there're some war atrocities committed in the movie, but its original title "guizi lai le" (鬼子来了) is more indicative of a comedy. I finally decide to put it in the historical/war sevtion of my list.

Devils on the Doorstep (2000)This film is produced, directed, and acted by Jiang Wen. It won him a Grand Prix at the Cannes. This movie is banned in China because it was made without Chinese film Bureau's green light. He was banned for making movies for 2 years. He kept himself busy acting while he was put on ice for directing.

As usual, meanings are usually lost in the translation. And there're more such lost in the translations in the story, although it's done deliberately by the Japanese translator to save his own skin. There's also the mis-translation, or more correctly, mis-interpretation of the Chinese word 'going' to mean 'about to die'.

The film is full of gallows humour. For those who think this is a film satirises the Japanese soldiers, they're off the marks. This seems so because the bulk of the movie occurs during the Japanese occupation of the village. But the lampoon continues well after the surrender of the Japanese, and the arrival of the KMT. This is a anti-war film, not anti-Japanese film as it could easily be misconstrued. Far from an anti-war film, it's also anti-ignorance, and xenophobia on the part of some of the Chinese villagers. Besides, Jiang Wen is somebody who's too smart to make a Japan bashing film.

It also won Mainichi Film Concours - am annual award run by a Japanese newspaper - for 2003 Best Foreign Language Film.

The farcical nature of some of the humour reflects the farcical nature of war, while it's peppered with dark comedies, and ironies that are as sharp as a bayonets.

The movie is shot in black-and-white to give it a WW2 documentary/news-reel tone, as well as renders starkness.


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