Chinese movie fans compare ‘Flowers of War’ and ‘War Horse’


Chinese filmgoers have had their choice of two war epics recently: Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” and Zhang Yimou’s “The Flowers of War.” Although “Flowers” has outperformed “Horse” at the box office in China, filmgoers seem to be more impressed with Spielberg’s film, at least judging by the comments of movie fans online.

“War Horse,” a tear-jerker tale of a boy and his horse in World War I, has won kudos for its touching story and Hollywood sheen. By comparison, some believe that Zhang sold out with “The Flowers of War,” starring Christian Bale as a Westerner trying to save a group of women in a church during Japan’s siege of Nanking in 1937.

In a review on the movie ratings and review website Mtime, a user named Daobanyingxiong wrote that while “The Flowers of War” — the most expensive Chinese movie ever at about $100 million — “is meant to be an impressive blockbuster with international vision,” it instead felt like “the scenes are set out to justify a 600 million renminbi budget.” Spielberg’s film, on the other hand, “was just emotions all the way.”


The conclusion? “The distance between Hollywood and us, between master directors and [simply] first rate directors, is right there,” Daobanyingxiong said emphatically.

Commentators on his thread agreed:

From Wilson08:

“Your review hit the nail on the head. Zhang was dedicated to winning awards, he wants to wrestle with Ang Lee...”

From Anonymous:

“In a domestic war movie, two scenes are inevitable: first, innocent women getting raped; second, children getting killed. Both are designed to catch the audiences’ attention. Actually, this is the lowest way. Experts know how to find a way around such things.”

From Da Eryuan:

“The Flowers of War uses a singular way to express itself - it is depressing. In War Horse, seen from whatever angle, the theme is love. It is a spiritual feast.”

—Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore