Review: John Rabe

“You may be a good doctor and you may know something about telephones, but neither of you knows anything about diplomacy!”

Florian Gallenberger’s historical drama John Rabe takes the 1937 attack on Nanking, China by invading Japanese forces (and the horrific atrocities that ensued), and filters it through the noble actions of a handful of foreign characters, including the titular German industrialist, an American doctor and a Jewish-born, German diplomat. That it excels as a production but not as a story says a lot more about the director’s lack of style and the script’s focus than the people involved in it.  But the film also comes to U.S. theaters at an awkward time, following the successful festival run of Chuan Lu’s similarly-themed docudrama City of Life and Death, a stunning film with which Rabe cannot contend.  City of Life and Death is best-of material;  John Rabe is merely a solid film. Such comparisons are unfortunate, but inevitable. Continue reading “Review: John Rabe”