Saturday, January 19, 2013

11 1942


I wanted to write this up. I watched this film – 1942, two days ago.

This has to be one of the best Chinese films I’ve seen. There are the usual dramatic exaggerations of course, but the disturbed feeling that it brought stayed on overnight.

It tells the story of the 1942 famine in Henan, China. Frankly, I doubt very few people have even heard of it. I meant the famine. It was adapted from a novel written by a Chinese novelist, whose ancestry is Henan, and her grandmother actually survived the disaster.

I read this from an article in the New York Times, in which her original mandarin article was translated into English.

She did not know about this famine until a friend of hers, doing research, asked her about this. 30 million people were displaced. Various accounts tell between 1 to 3 million people died during the famine.

One of the plus points of the film was that, being a Mainland China film, it gave a fair reflection of the Nationalist Government.

The author of the original novel mentioned a few interesting things in the New York Times article. That Chinese people, particularly the victims, were “humorous”, that a man, before he died, was actually quite pleased with himself that he had outlived his friend.

I’ll say this, when she asked her grandma about the famine, her grandma said what famine, there are always famine, what is so special about 1942, people die from famine all the time. She termed these responses as “forgetful”. Which, meant that the best way to heal from a terrible experience is to simply, forget it.

The whole film was very local. The accents and the way certain mindset was portrayed, such as exchanging sex for biscuits, and how depreciated a human life can be in desperate times.

The Chinese have been very good at portraying disaster in films, such as the Tangshan Earthquakes, but I guess this sets the bar higher. It does not use the old technique of polarizing the feelings, showing how peaceful and warm good times were and then absolutely destroy it in like 2 minutes worth of frames.

It does lead me to ask myself, as to how I would behave in a situation like that. While it reminds people of how bad we should not be, it also shows how grateful we should be not to be in a position like that.

One footnote, the Cairo Conference. The filmed showed that both Sir Winston and FDR refused to attend the meeting because Generalissimo Chiang was invited. Which was not true. The script was probably changed to be friendly to their Soviet Comrades. The party that refused to attend because China was invited was actually Stalin himself. In the end, Stalin did not attend. 

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