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

Fires on the Plain (Nobi) Reviews

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½ February 11, 2010
It's so good I might never want to watch it again, it's far too depressingly bleak to call it a favourite, but it's so well put together and realistic that you have to admire it. Exceptional anti-war film that should be seen by more people.
Super Reviewer
January 19, 2010
A brutal look at the last days of the second World War for a group of Japanese soldiers in the Philippines. Our protagonist is a TB-infected soldier who the hospital won't admit because he isn't sick enough, as he 'can still walk". He is run out of his unit because he is eating valuable food -- mostly yams -- and not able to contribute to gathering it. He then meets up with a variety of soldiers who aren't much better off than he is. He witnesses illnesses, cruelty, starvation and even cannibalism in the end. The horrifying events shown are even more shocking in that the story is based on true-life, a book written by a soldier who witnessed all this and probably more. The only ising that keeps me from giving this a higher rating is the first few minutes of the film. Our protagonist is standing at attention while he is reamed out by his commander. This reaming-out is basically exposition of the story. I would have liked it more had the action been played out rather than just explained. But other than that, a quality film from beginning to end.
½ January 6, 2010
This is a movie for people who like movie making and deep symbolic storytelling. So much happens in this movie that represents the tragedies of war to people, culture and human psychology. Plus, it is very visual in its poetic representation of the situations. It doesn?t really seem like war, but when you think about it, it is a perfect portrayal of it, just something that is not shown in the overwhelming majority of way movies. And this was made in the 50s. It?s a war polemic that is just as great as All Quiet on the Western Front in its message, artistry and timing.

I looked up this movie because of the storyline of the Philippines, not my home but the home of part of my ancestry. And when I found out that it was panned by most when it came out and even the Japanese couldn?t digest it and its messages, but is now thought of to be a gem, I had to see it. Not to mention I listened to a podcast about WW2 straglers left on islands.

For fans of classic message war movies, this is a must.
October 18, 2009
Few films are this depressing, but that also means it's depressing-good, meaning great. Ichikawa's film makes Stone's Platoon look like chicken feed. There's barely another film I can think of that shows a soldier's devastating trek through war this shockingly. Human Condition is still the best Japanese war film (trilogy), but this is right up there. By the end, the protagonist Tamura simply wants to go to the farmers on the other side of the hill, just to see "normal people" again. It's a statement about war you can never shrug off.
½ September 29, 2009
reminicent of "Thin Red Line." not about the battles of war, but the psyche. it's not hard to see why these guys lost it. curious of the response the Japanese gave this apon viewing it. how long were they out of the loop?
August 29, 2009
A beautiful black and white moive depicting the bleak circumstances of Japanese soldiers during the tail end of WWII. It is a depressing film directed by Kon Kichikawa and penned by his wife Natto Wada based on a book Nobi.
½ August 18, 2009
Good Japanese war story about a solider with TB at the end of WWII. The acting was fantastic. The shots are top notch. Good film.
August 15, 2009
A great anti-war film. Chilling, dismal, and pessimistic, in every meaning of the word.
August 9, 2009
An absolutely dismal view of humanity descending into a state of desperation. Inevitably, humans become mere beasts when faced with starvation and certain death, which is graphically demonstrated by this film. If you can handle the horrors of war, this movie will show you the worst of them.
July 26, 2009
A very well made film with a very good message about war. The characters portrayed are very well done. Although it is a very good film, there is a negative message about the Americans in it but all in all very good. Also a lot of very wide shots were used in this film along with very few close ups. Very nice directing if I do say so myself.
½ July 23, 2009
It is February 1945 and with the war all but lost, the remaining Japanese soldiers on the island of Leyte (Philippines) make do with dwindling supplies. Private Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi) is an unwanted man. Too sick with tuberculosis to remain with his unit, he is ordered by his commanding officer to report to the nearest field hospital as he is just a burden to his fellow soldiers. His CO angrily orders him to kill himself with a hand grenade if the field hospital turns him away - which they do - as the doctors deem Pvt. Tamura not sick enough to admit - not with a hospital woefully short of supplies. Unable to use the grenade on himself, Pvt. Tamura wanders the Philippine countryside - a witnesses to the harrowing and withering effects of a sustained war on soldiers and filipino civilians alike.

In a way, this film is similar to APOCALYPSE, NOW in that it follows a man on a journey which gets darker and grim the farther he goes . Here, Pvt. Tamura tries to travel (by foot) to the evacuation zone. The farther he journeys - the greater the dehumanizing effects of the war is apparent. With food and supplies all but exhausted - some soldiers resort to cannibalism. Even surrender does not seem to be an option, as the resentful filipino forces would just as soon shoot a japanese soldier as take him prisoner.

The film is shot in a black & white widescreen format...and one of the film's plusses is the exceptional cinematography of Setsuo Kobayashi - creating a seeming Hell in the Eden-like environs of the Philippine countryside.

9 / 10
May 12, 2009
I think this is the first non-Kurosawa Japanese film I've seen from the golden age of Japanese films, and it confirms my suspicions: in 50 years we have accomplished nothing.

This movie plays out very, very similarly to Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima," but lacks the special effects and the salvation. Everything you'll see in Ichikawa's movie is depraved and awful, with almost no redemption to be found among any of the characters. It's a little heavy at times; not in that it's tough to watch, but in that there's so little relief from the doom and gloom. Clearly a stylistic choice, but still. I feel tired having just seen it.

I gotta go get the Burmese Harp and some other Ichikawa movies now. Dammit.
½ March 14, 2009
A great film which studies the extent of war as an evil. I really did like this film. Although, the film seems to have no direction which can be sort of boring at times. I know it is supposed to be like that but it hurts the film, because I lost focus. A great postwar Japanese film and a fantastic and unique look at war.
February 24, 2009
another good one from Ichikawa
Super Reviewer
January 30, 2009
another brilliant film from the great kon ichikawa. fires of the plain deals with taboo subjetcs for japanese culture such as the surrender of soldiers in the time of war and cannabalism, but there is a sense of honesty and reality in the portrayal of these things. the camera work and acting were perfect, and although the story hit a wall for about 20 minutes in the middle, it picked back up and ended with excellence. beautiful anti-war film.
½ January 26, 2009
About as devastating a depiction of the Japanese side of WWII as could be told in 1959 Japanese cinema. Haunting, awful, if dated. On the slow side, but powerful damnation of war. Works better after having seen, say, Letters from Iwo Jima or having an understanind of how bad it got towards the end of te average Japanese soldier, and where Japan was in the war and what resources they were dealing with (or the lack of resources).
½ December 6, 2008
If there ever was an anti-war film, Fires on the Plain is it. As disconcerting and pesimistic a peice of war time movie making as I have ever seen. Profoundly disquieting.
½ November 25, 2008
With Peckinpah's 'The Cross of Iron', this is one of the greatest anti-war films ever made. It is an uncompromising look at stranded Japanese troops trying to survive in the jungles of the Philippines right at the tail end of WW2. Director Ichikawa intentionally avoids all sentimental and machismo cliches of a war film, and shows these emaciated men as hungry shadows void of any national pride. Goes to show that hunger supercedes anything else, and Ichikawa doesn't shy away from the book's main monstrosity of cannibalism. It's shown here in one scene that ranks up there with the most chilling images in cinema. Not really an enjoyable film, but an important one nonetheless.
October 31, 2008
A bleak film about war and doing what you need to survive. This used to be one of my favorites but it has lost some of its power on repeat viewing for me. Still the film is very well shot and features some very fascinating scenes. Definetly one of the great war films.
October 27, 2008
You don't see films like this anymore. 'Fires on the Plain' is an incredible depiction of the lives of the soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army. Kon Ichikawa's masterpiece follows Tamura, a soldier with Tuberculosis as he wanders around the Philippine landscape in the last year of the war. He is sent away to the hospital by his commanding officer only to be refused treatment and so he is sent back. His CO tells him to go back and if they refuse him again then his last order is to kill himself with his grenade. He is refused again, but meets up with a band of squatters sitting outside the hospital. The next day they are shelled by American troops and Tamura flees, choosing not to kill himself, and from there he wanders from place to place trying to get to Palompon. He discovers that some men have been eating human flesh in order to survive, while others trade as much tobacco as they can for whatever they can get back.

The film is filled with a quiet sense of desperation and desolation. Everyone we see is skin and bones, covered in dirt wearing torn and tattered rags. Ichikawa uses his camera to catch some beautiful shots of the destructed landscape and the Japanese soldiers who walk it. Kon Ichikawa was famous in Japan for making many comedies and satires, and there are moments in Fires on the Plain that are bitingly hilarious. Take for example a shot of what appears to be a dead man lying face down in a pool of water; a soldier walks but and asks himself aloud if that is how they will all end up, to which the man lifts his head out of the water and replies ?what was that?? and then drops his face even deeper into the puddle than before. Another hilarious sequence involves one man finding a pair of boots along the trail. He takes the boots, replacing them with his old ones. Another man walks by and sees that pair of boots and switches up for his old boots. The scene continues until finally Tamura finds the exchange spot and examines the boots left without hardly any sole. He looks carefully at his own and at ones on the ground, and deciding that they?re both kaput he removes his own and goes barefoot.
The film is filled with incredible scenes, one after another. Like Mizoguchi and Kurosawa, Ichikawa knew how to use his camera to paint beautiful and stunning pictures. There are many stunning shots of men in barren empty plains surrounded by nothing but smoke in the air and dead or dying bodies on the broken earth. There is another incredible scene where dozens of Japanese soldiers attempt to cross a road guarded by Yanks in the middle of the night, all crawling on their hands and knees as the camera watches on from above.

The film gets its name from the columns of smoke rising up from fires on the plains seen throughout the film. They represent to the soldiers life a little more ordinary; the lives of Japanese farmers back home burning husks of corn. Their beacons of hope for the normal life however are in hostile hands.

The film caused a stir in its day with its graphic content. Much emphasis is placed on the horror of war, not just with the enemy but within your ranks and yourself. Kon Ichikawa?s Fires on the Plains is an incredibly authentic and moving, and somewhat disturbing, portrait of the horror suffered by the men making up the lower ranks of the Imperial Army. Clint Eastwood?s Letters From Iwo Jima, while it is a very good film, comes nowhere close to realizing the horror of war depicted in Fires on the Plain. (Eastwood was no doubt influenced by the film, seeing as he claims to be such a classic Japanese film buff.) Many war films show that war is hell, but we?re shown this from the winner?s side. In Fires on the Plain, we?re shown that war is even more hellish when you?re on the losing end.
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