Gembaku no ko (Children of Hiroshima) Reviews
"Children of Hiroshima" is a heartbreaking movie shot in the finest neo-realist style, as it successfully takes the tragedy of the bombing down to a personal level with the city in the background. What soon becomes apparent in the individual characters' stories is the indiscriminate nature of the deaths, depending on where a person was when the bomb went off, thus breaking up families and creating large amounts of orphans. Even years later, the radiation still kills, randomly and suddenly. Actually, nobody got away totally unscathed in the city. Takako's most visible wound is the glass shard in her shoulder but to audiences of her time, it probably seemed tragic that she had little hope for marriage.
A powerful film experience.
However compelling a topic I find the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be - I have read a few books on the subject, watched several documentaries and dramatisations, read most of Keiji Nakazawa's "Barefoot Gen", and even shaken the hand of a hibakusha - I didn't find "Children of Hiroshima" very successful as a film. Of course, the shots of Hiroshima in 1952 (the year the film was shot) are invaluable as documents. But the story itself is too episodic, and feels more like a melodramatic parade of the blind, the scarred, the maimed, the sterile, the orphans, the homeless and, of course, the dead, whom the bomb left behind.
The very short flashbacks to the bombing are praiseworthy in their attempted abstraction, as a more realistic depiction might have seemed exploitative, but they give the impression that what the bomb did was bare women's breasts and wither flowers. Reminiscences of the time before the bomb are also much too idyllic, as if the atom had interrupted an innocent summer holiday. There is no sense of the hardships, the squalor, the hunger or even the paranoia that the Japanese must have endured.
As for the personal anecdotes, they feel more like generic tableaus than authentic life stories, and I wish Kaneto Shindō had adapted genuine biographical testimonies, or directed a fully-fledged documentary, rather than come up with this not too subtle and slightly preachy caricature.