Devils on the Doorstep (Guizi lai le) By Jiang Wen (2000) (China) is a Chinese black comedy set during the Japanese occupation in China (IMBd, Devils on the Doorstep), loosely based on a book called Survival by You Feng Wei (Youtube, Movie “Devils on the Doorstep” Banned). It was later banned in China and almost stopped from screening at Cannes by the Chinese Film Bureau (Time Asia, Asia scores). Except for the ending, the film is shot in black and white.

Two Japanese soldiers were dumped in Dasan’s house by “Me”. Dasan must keep them alive and out of sight before New Year’s. The plot portrays the clear difference between the Japanese and Chinese, but in the end, we’re all only human.

Hanaya (left) begging to be killed and Han Chen (right) begging to live.

I decided to write a poem depicting Dasan’s thoughts during his last moments. The essence of the film to me is the mixture of comedy and cruelty. I felt Dasan’s last moments was the best mixture of black comedy.

“On the last day of my life,

I saw the China general balanced on one foot and wobbled around,

He told me his reason for hating them was stronger than mine,

And I laughed.

Because it was funny.

As the general began his serious orders,

A man fell from the top screaming like a girl,

And a pig went through the soilder’s legs.

The children roared with laughter.

In my heart I laughed along.

Because it was funny.

He called the man who killed my village,

Who called the man I saved.

I laughed even harder.

That man took up his Japanese sword and held it to my neck.

If I wasn’t gagged, I would be laughing like a donkey.

As my head rolled on the floor,

I saw the truth.

Human nature is so funny.”

In this poem, I described the scene of Dasan’s execution to show the atmosphere around him. I decided to make Dasan laugh because of the stupidity of the whole situation he’s in. By right, the one who should be executed is Hanya, but Hanya gets to kill him instead. The irony of Hanya, whom Dasan undesirably saved, killing his whole village and in the end killing Dasan as well, was the biggest joke of all.

The last 3 stanzas is when Dasan saw colour as his decapitated head rolled on the floor. “I saw the truth” refers to the true colours of humans, how cruel they can be to their savior. “Human nature” refers to compassion, which has always been “right”. However, this film made me think: “If you give, what will you really get back?”

Dasan's dismembered head blinking his eyes

Dasan’s dismembered head watching the soldiers 

About the author:

Johrah is a Charlie Chaplin fan that takes interest in cute animals, comedy and family themed shows and books.


IMDb. 2001. Guizi lai le (2000). [online] Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245929/ [Accessed: 21 Jun 2013].

ASIANOW – TIME Asia. 2000. Asia: ASIA SCORES | 6/05/2000. [online] Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/ASIANOW/time/magazine/2000/0605/asia.cannes.html [Accessed: 21 Jun 2013].

Youtube. 2012. Movie “Devils on the Doorstep” Banned. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWJI3AOAo5Y [Accessed: 22 Jun 2013].


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