Guizi lai le / Devils on the Doorstep

Guizi lai le / Devils on the Doorstep (2000)

Devil? That looks like a very sissy stance to me

Director: Jiang Wen
Writers: Jiang Wen
Date: 2000

Genre: War / Drama
Description: War is tragedy, Japanese occupation in China, prisoners of war, ravages of war, satire, black comedy, inhumanity, doing what other people tell you

Cast: Jiang Wen, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ding Yuan, Jiang Hongbo, etc.

Crew of note: Gu Changwei, who also worked on Farewell My Concubine and Red Sorghum, is the cinematographer

Runtime: 162 mins.
Color: BW
Trivia: Jiang Wen was banned from filmmaking for 7 years by the Chinese Government because this movie wasn’t patriotic enough

Dasan is asked by a mysterious man to keep two prisoners of war, a translator and a Japanese solder, played by Jiang Yihong and Kagawa Teruyuki respectively, in their town until he returns for them. The poor town, under the supervision of a Japanese base close by, is thrown into confusion regarding what to do with the prisoners: should they keep them in secret, or should they tell the Japanese?

It is not difficult to find a review for this film, especially since it kicked ass at Cannes. In fact, it’ll probably serve you better to look for a professional review instead of reading my uninspired attempts at convincing you to watch this. Actually, I’d known about this film for a while before I finally decided to watch it. The phrases “anti-war”, “harrowing depiction”, and “black and white” just didn’t seem to pique my interest. I was expecting bullets, dying comrades, and tons of depression.

To my surprise, the movie turned out to be very light, warm, and amusing most of the time, despite its premise. It is difficult to think of Dasan as anything but a comedic character as you watch, and the phrases mentioned above will rarely appear appropriate. But this truly is a movie that condemns war, that shows how people behave during war. The nationalities aren’t important. The setting (which could be anywhere as the town is isolated and disconnected from the rest of the world) is not important. You simply have to see what happens.

The filmmaking and acting is topnotch. The pictures are pretty. Personally, I don’t remember the music, but that doesn’t take anything away. And I should stop here, with an intentionally vague couple of paragraphs. You should watch this film without reading any spoilers, and know as little about it as possible. It will make for a better experience.

Okay, I concede that the movie is definitely anti-Japanese, maybe excessively so despite how it tries to accurately depict the war. However, can it really be said that this film is pro-Chinese? In fact, pro anything? Unlike many war films (I won’t point in any direction), there is no hero here, and it is simply about the tragedy that is war. This is an anti-war film.

things to take note of
How hilarious Dasan is
The message, I guess
The villagers’ interactions

best moment
Whenever they’re trying to keep everything a secret, specifically the part with a chicken

why you should watch this
It will make you laugh, even when you shouldn’t
Jiang Wen
This is a great anti-war film

rating: 9.35

Plot: B+
Cast: A
Cinematography: B+
Music: C
Entertainment: B

similar movies, maybe:
Other anti-war movies?
Biruma no tategoto / The Burmese Harp by Ichikawa Kon
Nobi / Fires on the Plain by Ichikawa Kon
Okay, those aren’t really similar to Guizi lai le except that they’re also two of the best anti-war films ever