Zhang Yimou says he always feels apprehensive when his movie is about to be screened and get its first audience responses. Ahead of his historic epic "The Flowers of War" hitting the big screen the weekend, Zhang talked about the film with CCTV on Wednesday.
In 1937, the city of Nanjing fell into the hands of the Japanese invaders, who began to execute a large scale massacre. Against this backdrop, "The Flowers of War" follows the story of a group of escapees who take sanctuary in a Church compound. To save some young female students from the clutches of the Japanese soldiers, thirteen prostitutes rise up to meet the enemy, fully prepared to sacrifice themselves.
Based on Yan Geling’s novel, the film script was polished by both Yan Geling and Liu Heng. The script was read by Zhang Yimou in 2006, who was deeply touched by the story. He says the script, with kindness, redemption and love as the main theme, is the best he has ever read in 20 years of being a director.
Zhang said, "I think the film has mainly achieved what I hoped. Crew members from different countries come together to tell a story with flesh and blood, and let it move the audience. It’s a difficult task. It’s not simply that you use a Hollywood actor and you get that. The beautiful side of humanity, the theme of redemption is what will eventually touch the audience."
The 600-million yuan budget effort has turned out to be the most expensive movie ever made in China. Zhang spared no effort in honing the details. Because the lead actor Christian Bale had only two months available for the film, after his shots were done, the shots of the ones who play opposite him were re-shot to perfect the acting.
He said, "It was necessary to re-shoot some scenes. Because the ones playing opposite him are all greenhands. I have to hone their scenes to reach the standard. Especially, some scenes speaking English."
The "New Generation of Mou’s Lady" Nini, who plays the female lead in the film, has garnered the most attention. Zhang says the acclaim Nini is receiving for her screen debut can be attributed to her hard work.
He said, "It was three or four years ago that she was selected. After we decided to use her, we trained her for two years. But we didn’t tell her she was the final choice. And later she had to keep everything about the movie secret. So she held onto the last minute until we signed contract with her."
The film has summoned up an international production crew, that are A-list professionals in stunts, set design, sound effects and double acting. And only 1 out of 100 inches of film shot were used in the final cut. We can see from all this that Zhang Yimou planned on creating a classic. Whether it is or not, will be up to audience.