Nov. 1 | Laurence Simmons: The Flowers of War & Nanjing 1937

  From: English College | Date: 2012/10/30

Speaker: Laurence Simmons (University of Auckland, New Zealand)
Date: 1 November 2012
Time: 16:30
Venue: Room 361, School of English Language and Literature, Songjiang Campus
Language: English
Event type: Public Lecture
Summary: This lecture asks the question if and how Zhang Yimou’s film The Flowers of War can bear witness to the events known as the Nanjing massacre. Turning the Massacre of Nanjing, the cruelty involved and the sheer numbers murdered into a fiction of any kind, aestheticizing it, is inherently a deeply suspect operation. The more successful Zhang Yimou’s film is as a film the further away it may be from the historical Massacre as event. What are the legitimate conditions for bearing witness to events such as these? How can a film made over 70 years after the event be true to the imagining, understanding or remembering of the terrible incidents it portrays? In order to respond to these objections I am going to focus on three aspects of The Flowers of War: the film’s narrative and rhetorical structure, its reliance on the structures of fetishism and of sacrifice. I shall argue that the success of The Flowers of War in employing narrative and visual devices calls attention to the exemplary testimonial work that the film enacts in attempting to fathom the unfathomable of the events of 1937.

Speaker Biography: Laurence Simmons is Head of the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies at the University of Auckland. He has written extensively on Italian and New Zealand film and is also known as a writer of numerous essays on New Zealand painting and photography and in 2002 published a major work on twentieth-century New Zealand artists: The image always has the last word: On Contemporary New Zealand Painting and Photography (Dunmore, 2002). He also has a strong interest in critical theory and has completed a book on Freud’s papers on art and aesthetics: Freud’s Italian Journey (Rodopi Press, 2006) as well as co-edited volumes of essays on the relevance of the work of Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard and Slavoj Zizek to Australasia. His latest books include Speaking Truth to Power: Public intellectuals rethink New Zealand (2007) and Tuhituhi: William Hodges, Cook’s Painter in the South Pacific (2011).





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