Archive for June 3rd, 2012

The 2nd in the 9 hour epic Human Condition trilogy finds our anti-war hero Kaji having been shipped off for basic training in the Japanese army at a boot-camp where once again his views bring him into conflict with his superiors. Standing up against what he believes is too brutal a regime against rookie soldiers, he argues that the recruits should not have to be humiliated daily by superior officers. Obara, a weak rookie is subjected to a series of humiliating ordeals which leads to him committing suicide with a rifle. Kaji is determined to bring the officer who picked on Obara to justice but before he can do that, he is promoted up the ranks for being a disciplined soldier and an excellent sniper. He is given a new batch of recruits to mould them into shape and he treats them with dignity and respect but a group of grizzled veterans aren’t very happy that he isn’t bullying them so they take out their anger on him but Kaji refuses to fight back. With growing tensions inside the army camp thanks to Kaji, his superiors send him off along with 28 other men to Southern Manchuria to dig trenches with the advancing Russian army bearing down on them. Kaji and his men are ill prepared to face the Russians and their tanks. Will he manage to survive the encounter?

I actually enjoyed this much more than the first movie. A lot of the movie seems to be a criticism on the pointlessly brutal system where rookie soldiers were beaten up for no reason whatsoever by their immediate superiors. The officers did nothing to change this and Kaji still refuses to bend to this insane situation. Instead of focusing on teamwork and camaraderie which would help them in training, superior officers were only intent on destroying the weak. It’s quite a depressing but well made indictment on Japanese militaristic mentality during the era. Kaji’s ideas about the worth of the individual and the humanity of mankind is in direct opposition to the militarism of Japan at the time which gets him into a lot of trouble. He refuses to disregard his own principles and actually saves a few rookies from being severely beaten at boot-camp largely by taking the beatings himself. He thinks it’s better to earn their respect and loyalty with kindness, rather than brutality. There’s a poignant scene where Kaji’s wife comes to visit him and they get to spend one night together in a cold storeroom. Before saying goodbye the following morning, Kaji asks his wife to strip off as that’s the image he wants to remember her. Kaji doesn’t expect to come back alive from the front line.

There’s no drop in quality from the first movie – beautiful black and white cinematography, superb acting especially from Tatsuya Nakadai as Kaji and great directing by Masaki Kobayashi. The battlefield sequence at the end of the movie show the full horror of war and Kobayashi doesn’t shirk away from showing dismembered limbs, blown up bodies, and madness taking away men’s lives. Even though the movie lasts for 3 hours, it’s such an engrossing story that you never get bored watching it.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the trilogy ends. I hope that Kaji is reunited once more with his loyal wife Michiko – a source of strength to him.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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