Eight Women Die a Martyr
China 1985
Directed by Yang Guangyuan.

Bands of Japanese soldiers move through the Chinese countryside during the Sino-Japanese war, through villages already devestated and people on the edge of survival. It is far from clear what the resistance group's aim is, except survival, nor is it clear why the Japanese troops are moving the way they do. This "ground floor" view of combat is day after day of quiet survival in the woods, punctuated by chaotic moments of extreme violence. While the men keep getting killed, the women stack up and form their own part of the resistance army...one woman leaves her husband, who is a collaborator; another has her infant shot to death when she tries to bring a sewing machine back to camp; husbands and fathers are murdered; rapes are attempted. But they persevere, building a secret camp where they sew clothing for the front line troops for winter, the Japanese getting closer and closer. It only takes a glance at the title to see how it all ends up. While they are all getting thoroughly martyred the eight women freeze in a tableau so striking you wonder if it is based on a monument to the women erected somewhere, or if the film is actually just a lengthy proposal for just such a monument. Then, they explode. A relentlessly grim film that will make you glad for all the things we take for granted, like food and heat and the absence of enemy troops roving the countryside. Director Yang Guangyuan goes on to direct a portion of the much celebrated three part war picture, Decisive Engagement (1991, China), which is presumably better than this interesting, but ultimately not very engaging, production.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on June 02, 2005.

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