Sunday, June 17, 2012

John Rabe Review

World War 2 racked up one of the biggest death tolls in human history. Probably the biggest. Hundreds of atrocities and human rights abuses happening all over the world. Millions dead in less than ten years. We all know the biggest one. The Holocaust. The mass execution of Jews throughout Europe taking over six million lives. There were dozens, probably hundreds like this on smaller scales. One of these was a terrible event still known today as the rape of Nanking. Where Japanese troops invaded Nanking, China. Then proceeded to murder, rape, and pillage the city.  Every soldier was executed, women and children raped in the streets. A death toll higher than three hundred thousand. This is an atrocity that is not very well known to Americans, because the American government didn't think that Americans would care about the plight of the Chinese.

Whenever horrible things like this happens there are sometimes stories of heroism. Proving that maybe humanity isn't entirely evil. About people who decided to do what was right, against what was safe or easy.  One of these men was John Rabe. The movie named after him is what I am going to review. I had to describe the backstory though.
John Rabe was one of the best humanitarians of the war. There was one thing about him. He was a member of the National Socialists party. He was a Nazi. He ran a branch of a German business which was stationed in Nanking when the Japanese invaded. He had the chance to live, but chose to stay. He was nominated as the chairman of a committee by other people who lived in Nanking. Using his Nazi influence he created a safety zone in the middle of Nanking, which housed and protected over two hundred thousand Chinese citizens from the Japanese.

There's not much I can say about the film other than it is terrific. It has great acting by Ulrich Tukur who plays Rabe, and a great supporting role by Steve Buscemi as American doctor Robert Wilson who was part of the committee Rabe was a part of. The acting is terrific all around as well. I really like that they gave the Japanese a human face without underplaying the atrocity. The only thing I could maybe take away is that there is some narration that occasionally takes you out of the film, but the affect is so miniscule it's almost nonexistent. The film was a joint German-Chinese-French production, so there is subtitles. Although there are a lot of English language scenes. I have never understood why anyone would miss out on a great movie because of that, but I know people who do.

John Rabe is a great film about a terribly unknown hero and event that more people should be informed about.  It is great, and if I could rate it I would give it 5 stars. If you are interested in learning more about what happened at Nanking Check out the great documentary Nanking or the film City of Life and Death.

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