“You are fortunate to be a work of art.”
Red Cherry from director Daying Ye is based on the true story of ChuChu (Ke-Yu Guo) a 13-year-old Chinese girl who’s attending the International School in Moscow in 1940. ChuChu–who witnessed the public execution of her revolutionary father in China–is no stranger to cruelty and violence when German troops overrun a summer camp in Belarus. ChuChu is just one of several children captured by the Nazis. The film follows the fate of ChuChu, Carl Zhang–a German-Chinese student, and Luo (Xiaoling Xu), a 12-year-old Chinese boy.
ChuChu comes to the attention of a bizarre, one-legged Nazi general, a Dr. Von Dietricht whose hobby is tattooing. Kept as a servant within the walls of a monastery for several years, ChuChu becomes a subject for the Dr’s “artistic” whims.
Since Red Cherry is based on a true story, it seems crass to complain that the story is ugly and unpleasant. However, those watching the film should prepare themselves beforehand for several scenes that show close-ups of people–including children–who get their brains blown out at close quarters. The camera explores the lurid, exploitive machinations of the general in some relentless detail, and it does not try to avoid showing absolute brutality. Yet at the same time, the film also engages in moments of blatant sentimentality and cliched scenes depicting decadence. Consequently, Red Cherry is not a particularly easy or enjoyable film to watch. It’s wrenching, and tragic, but the film also seems to have a lingering fascination for some subjects that borders on lurid exploitation. In Mandarin, Russian and German with English subtitles.