Posted on 3/17/06 02:47 PM
Fires on the Plain
Synopsis: Desperate remnants of the Imperial Japanese Army in the Philippines, February 1945, face either a quick death at the hands of overwhelming American firepower or a slow, miserable death at the hands of starvation and disease. In the midst of this, Pvt. Tamura has contracted tuberculosis and is sent by his squad leader to either find a place in a field hospital or carry out his final duty and end his life with a grenade. The movie follows his wanderings across Luzon (I think?) as he grapples with the decision to either live or die, and eventually encounters a couple of Japanese soldiers who have found a reliable source of food.
They call it "monkey meat."
And by "monkey meat", they mean "dead people meat."
Review: 9/10 :fresh:
Grim, cynical, and depressing. There is no flinching away from reality here; these men are dead, almost without a doubt, and they all know it. As mentioned, our hero is already dying of tuberculosis, and his everyday existence is an unending hell of hunger, fatigue, and American shelling. The only thing he has to look forward to is more suffering.....yet on and on he goes, pausing only briefly to consider the grenade and the final order he's been given. Even in the most horrid of circumstances, the desire to live for just a few more days, hours, minutes, or even seconds is overwhelming.
I have to admit to being biased here; the final stage of the Pacific War is a subject which holds a whole lot of fascination for me, especially from the unfamiliar view of the Japanese. Even setting that aside, however, I was very impressed with how this film was handled. It all feels very matter-of-fact; there is very little talk of dying gloriously for the Emperor, or even of victory and defeat. The thoughts here are all completely practical and centered endlessly on the lack of food and the desperate desire to escape from the advancing American army, which comes across more like a force of nature than an enemy that can be fought. This is conveyed most effectively in one of the film's best scenes, where a slowly shambling mass of retreating Japanese soldiers suddenly plunge to the ground as an American fighter strafes their column; when the plane passes, some of them get back up again and others don't, but regardless they continue shambling on just as before without paying the dead men so much as a glance.
Frankly, I'm very surprised this film is so unknown. I was extremely impressed with it, enough to elevate it amongst the ranks of my all-time favorite anti-war films. I'm now looking for Ichikawa's other film about the war, Burmese Harp.
Cannibal Connoisseur's Guide: 5/10 :rotten:
As in so many other films, this is desperation cannibalism; the world at large seems to hold a bigoted belief that eating people is something which is only done by people on the verge of starvation.
What the world doesn?t seem to understand is that, if you are on the verge of starvation, it?s very likely your potential meal will be as well. What kind of farmer exposes his cattle to rare tropical diseases and a starvation diet before sending them off on their one-way trip to steakville? I think this may explain the rude and uneducated opinions so many hold of cannibalism; they tried eating someone once only to discover that it tasted awful because they waited for the meat to reach its worst possible condition. Fools.
It also doesn?t help that our starved and disease ridden meals are comparatively lanky Japanese. Understand that I?m not a racist and will eat anyone of any race without complaint....but in the world of meat, size matters, and the Japanese just aren?t very big people.
[SPOILER]Man, that sounded gay.[/SPOILER]