1959, 104 min., 35 mm, B&W, in Japanese with English subtitles.
Directed by Kon Ichikawa. With Eiji Funakoshi, Osamu Takizawa, Mickey Curtis.
Print Courtesy of Janus Films.
"No other film on the horrors of war has gone anywhere near as far"
– Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
“one of the most searing comments on war yet made”
50 years before Clint Eastwood tackled the subject in Letters from Iwo Jima, Kon Ichikawa’s Fires on the Plain was denouncing war with bone-hard forthrightness and barbaric grandeur in the haunting and timeless tale of private Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi), a sunken-eyed, tubercular straggler who staggers through the hell-like lands of the Japanese-occupied Philippine island of Leyte in February of 1945.
A free adaptation of the critically acclaimed 1952 novel by Shohei Ooka, Fires on the Plain ventures light years away from flag-waving patriotism and saccharine sentimentality. Focusing on the raw desperate drama of starving, barely surviving soldiers of the Imperial Army during the last days of World War II, the film shows war behind the cannons, when the guns stop blazing and the battlefield leaves no triumphs or defeats. The closest film equivalent of Goya’s Disasters of War, Kon Ichikawa’s masterpiece won the Blue Ribbon Awards for Best Director and Best Cinematography, the Kinema Junpo Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actor (Eiji Funakoshi) and the Mainichi Film Concours for Best Actor (Eiji Funakoshi).
$12/$9 Japan Society members, students & seniors
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Part of the series: Shadows of the Rising Sun: Cinema and Empire
Each film illustrates one or several of the “Six Planes of Existence“—a Buddhist concept commonly referred to as “Six Paths” (Rokudō 六道 or Rokudō-rinne 六道輪廻) in Japan—within “the realm of Birth and Death” (Samsara).
Fires on the Plain
The Realm of the Hungry Ghosts: Preta-gati in Sanskrit. Gakidō (餓鬼道) in Japanese. The realm of hungry spirits, characterized by agonizing craving and eternal starvation.
- December 10, 2010
- 7:30 pm