Fires on the Plain (Nobi) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Fires on the Plain (Nobi) Reviews

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February 19, 2016
It is the Philippines. It is 1945. The once proud Fascist imperial armies of Japan have been decimated. All that remains are straggling, starving soldiers marchin' on, mostly devoid of even superior officers. Meanwhile, the Americans are in full force and can ambush them at will. Guerrillas and even civilians can also kill them at will. Because of the Bushido code, most are still not seriously contemplating surrender. But many dream of it regardless. The protagonist here gradually realizes to his horror that many of his fellow soldiers have resorted to cannibalism to survive. He vows to be different but is sorely tempted to do likewise. They march on through the wilderness of the Philippines to avoid detection as long as possible. Eventually he finds a soldier who is attempting to become a Buddha, refusing to leave a tree he is resting against, and when the main character gets up to leave, the other soldier raises his arm and says, "it won't be much longer, why don't you stay and eat me." He proceeds on and eventually teams up out of loneliness and desperation with another soldier who seems more energetic than the rest who offers him "monkey meat". He is suspicious because he's seen no monkeys and eventually realizes he's been consuming human flesh all along. There is a scene in which he waits for an ideal time to surrender. He even has a white flag, but he sees another soldier surrender first who gets machine-gunned by a female civilian, which is perfectly understandable considering the vast extent of the war crime atrocities committed against the people of the Philippines. Yes, this film is horrific, nearly veering into horror film realm, and unfortunately a true story. It gets a 100% critics approval rating.
½ June 17, 2014
If you like starvation, desperation, and nothing else, than this is the film for you. I however, had to struggle through this film, but not without reason. Its got great cinematography and characters, but still, I would hesitate to think of this film as "essential viewing."
Super Reviewer
½ December 21, 2013
To what extent are the Japanese willing to go in order to bring more credible performances? According to IMDB, the cast was fed to a minimum and were forbidden from looking after their personal hygiene. They only had the aid of nurses. However, actor Eiji Funakoshi (Tamura) was never told not to eat. It was his decision to starve himself without anybody knowing about it... until he collapsed. Production was shut down for 2 weeks.

If The Burmese Harp (1956) was Ichikawa's humanism testament, Nobi acts as a counterpart of dehumanization, anxiety, fear, madness, cannibalism and delusions. It achieves to be tense and psychologically disturbing, but it also manages to go even one step forward, placing Tamura as a character on his final stage of tuberculosis, slowly losing his humanity, but internally struggling to keep his sanity and adhering himself to his principles before he loses all connection with reality. The constant voiceover proves this struggle to be true. Hence, we have a powerful film that, despite some brief parenthetical digressions, never loses track of its course and offers the challenge to its audiences of making a decision: whether to empathize with the madness of the characters or not. I chose to do so, because I am pretty sure that this hellish psychological war-induced claustrophobia can only be understood by people that have tasted and smelled the battlefield and seen the repercussions in their comrades.

I am praying that none of us here present are given a chance to prove whether if the depiction was accurate or not. Ichikawa always considered the quality of his original WWII-themed sources for the purposes of film adaptation. I trust him.


P.S. This is one of those movies that slowly grows in you and shouldn't be rated immediately.
March 1, 2013
A beautifully filmed, intense anti-war film, Kon Ichikawa's Fires on the Plain is a harrowing descent into despair. Faced with the fundamental existential decision of whether or not to commit suicide, protagonist Tamura wanders around a newly conquered island in the Philippines near the close of WWII. Near death from tuberculosis, Tamura seeks a place with various army units on the island but is denied because of his condition and is even ordered to commit suicide. But Tamura refuses to give up and continues to roam the hellish landscape of the island as dark temptations of murder and cannibalism begin gnawing at his conscience. Will he submit to these animalistic desires to survive or will he preserve his humanity until the end? This is the haunting question that lies at the heart of Ichikawa's horrifying depiction of war when all the aspirations of honor, patriotism, and just cause are stripped away to reveal the bleeding corpses that support the effort.
July 16, 2012
A fantastic and touching tale of human desperation.
July 4, 2012
A lost soul wanders in the wasteland that was the Philippines at the end of WWII. Ichikawa's increasingly oppressive anti-war film is at times dream-like but most times horrifyingly real.
June 19, 2012
More than half a century after its release, Fires on the Plain stands tall not only as a painfully accurate depiction of WWII's Pacific Theater, but as a testament to the horrific side-effects of war. Alongside a superb script and gripping performances, Nobi is glaring look at humanity at its lowest. The film's execution flawlessly captures the fleeting line between life and death; this is a film that will stay with the audience long after it's over.
March 22, 2012
Fires on the Plain is a harrowing account of the Japanese invasion of the Phillipines. It is a story of Tamura, a Japanese soldier suffering from Tuberculosis and his struggle to survive among his increasingly crazed and demoralized countrymen. The depiction of violence is brutally realistic for the time and doesn't pull any punches. It shows death as being a blood filled sorry mess and doesn't shy away from close-ups of piles of corpses. The film is thematically mostly about man's struggle to stay alive, while still remaining parts of his humanity. In that the film shows soldiers turning to cannibalism due to the lack of food and as Tamura struggles with hunger he attempts to avoid stooping that law. There is no glory of war in this film everything is bleak and desolate. The waning sanity of the soldiers is well portrayed by the actors and feels very real and nerve wracking. The black and white cinematography would be beautifully if it weren't so bleak and is one of the main reasons of why the film is so effective in showing the viewers the total brutality of war. Overall the film is very effective in its anti-war message and is a still a harrowing and effective treatment of war and the limits of humanity.
October 20, 2011
Brutal, intense, graphic, gritty, beautiful, poignant, sad, fantastic.
October 14, 2011
It is certainly a good film but I didn't really like it. Theoretically I should have loved it with its documentary-like construction where things happen because they happen and not because it fits the structure of the story. Here the characters need not to be build: they are who they are, period. Besides, the story is told in such a way that you find yourself laughing in front of a most tragic situation. Still something was missing. The absurdity of the situation is such that I just couldn't feel any empathy with the main character (great actor by the way). It is also partly due to the way the film is shot, the images are very empty and airy. It lacks the filling of claustrophobia that would induce fear and thus make the audience feel like if they were in the shoes of the character.But, lets be fair, it is a good movie, well worth watching.
August 6, 2011
Strange to say, I was reminded quite a lot of Lost while watching this with the columns of smoke and the jungle.
July 10, 2011
This is probably the most arid depiction of World War ll and the most gruesome and disturbing portrayal of the soldiers, particularly the Japanese, depicted in their most depressive state, contradictorily to what we've always seen in Hollywood epic portraits of the heroes of war. The purpose is, as the filmmaker said in an interview, to show the horror of war, which is shown greatly realistic to one's standard. But the result is far greater an impact. It's not just visually fascinating at large, but also comparatively more compelling from its moral perspective than any other war-themed films. The film is largely driven by the characters, who, at times are so incredibly surreal, make it hard to believe that you are watching a movie, not a war documentary. The vague climax at the end of the film contributes to its dream-like state, as the audience doesn't really aware thoroughly if Tamura approached the fires on the plain at one point before, or actually, after he met Nagamatsu. No one knows what really happens; whether the Nagamatsu incident was truly happens or was only a dream. Considering the nature of the film, I'd like to think such possibility. Besides, the film lays on much prone-for-discussion subject such as morality and fatalism, among other things. If Tamura surrendered to the Americans, he would not starve to the point of near-death. If Tamura has approached the farmers earlier, he'd probably be able to steal food. The more we look into the issues, the more we become entangled to bargain the character's life. The film's trying to be honest to its portrayal of the soldiers against any banality of political war-themed films, and it succeeds through the shaping of the characters.
½ May 19, 2011
A bleak, realist depiction of forsaken humanity in time of preeminent despair. Unlike war films centralized on battlefields, Fires on the Plain forefront human degradation of the defeated. This is a film that will disgust, shaken, and overwhelm. Mistrusts, isolation, disparity, dehumanization, exhaustion of moral and integrity... cowardice, illnesses, forced cannibalism.
Powerful, intense.
December 23, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

(1959) Fires on a Plain
(In Japanese with English subtitles)

Story based on actual fact from a novel written by Shohei Ooka while serving for the Japanese army during WWII during the invasion of the Phillipines! Anti-war movie which showcases almost at the end of WWII and the Japanese had already been defeated, turning the focus on a particular person by the name of Tamura while suffering from turbecolosis who gets rejected by first the hospital he was ordered to resettle until it was blown away, taking no prisoners was not an option during that particular time since they'd just be shot down, forcing remaining survivors to find refuge on their own! Hunger was so bad with some of the remaining survivors of the Japanese soldiers that it would lead them to commit acts of cannibalism! This is not a pretty film to watch!

3 out of 4
½ December 21, 2010
Not my movie of choice but nonetheless a fantastic look of wartime of Japanese soldiers in the Philippines at the end of WWII.
November 11, 2010
A harrowing and depressing statement of the human condition during wartime on the losing side. A Japanese soldier named Tamura diagnosed with TB is not wanted by his unit and will not be admitted to the hospital. He begins to wander through the Philippine landscape. He meets up with a variety of soldiers on his journey, experiences thoroughly appalling atrocities and is faced with terrible choices and decisions as well as getting involved in the personal war between Yasuda and Nagamatsu, two soldiers who were once loyal friends. This is one of the most disturbing portraits of war put to the screen. Never overstated, meticulously observed by a terrific director and with a dedicated performance from Eiji Funakoshi, Fires on the Plain is harsh viewing, but truly outstanding.
October 9, 2010
The movie is great because it not only showcases the brutality of a war upon its 'partcipants' but more importantly it is different because it is very cultural in a sense that we are shown various elements of Japansese/Asian attitudes towards war situations, for example, surrender, salt, companionship, etc.
The performaces of the main character is haunting and captivating; well matched by other characters in the movie.
It is a shame that such movies aren't made anymore and I'd like to be given a chance to see it in a cinema.
July 18, 2010
Not a movie for everyone. In 1945 when Japan surrendered, Japanese troops were left in the Phillipines to fend for themselves in retreat. The plot follows Tamura, a soldier who faces worse horror in defeat than he ever did in battle. This is one grim and gruesome film, folks, and a very strong anti-war statement. Unforgetable!
July 14, 2010
Liposuct all pretensions of glory and honor from war, inject all of the humanity and desperation that was more likely the reality, and you have a WW2 movie that doesn't negotiate shocking moments for sudden rescues. Feels like "Waiting For Godot" at points, with defeated soldiers waiting for death in some form to take them, whether from the US, nature, or each other.
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