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In a poor 19th century rural Japanese village, everyone who reaches the age of 70 has to climb a nearby mountain to die. An old woman is getting close to the cut-off age, and we follow her last days with her family.
Schoolteacher Hisako Oishi struggles to imbue her students with a positive view of the world and their place in it, despite the fact that she knows full well that most of them will die in the war. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
People who view this film would do well to consider the sentiment of post-war Japan in the mid-50s, when the future was still uncertain and the vast devastation and shame caused by the war were prevalent in the mindset of its citizens.
The timing for this film's release was significant, because perhaps for the first time, it permitted the people of Japan to cry unabashedly for themselves, far removed from any political statement so frequent in Shochiku films such as with many of Kurosawa's classics. Movies at the time tended to have positive, uplifting themes that motivated the populous to help rebuild the country into a modern democratic nation. You can thank Douglas MacArthur for that.
The post-war generation was now almost 10 years old, and in the Japanese psyche was the need for justification for its darkest period in history.
This film served as a reminder of the horrors of war, not from the battlefields, but from the emotional scars left on its children who lived and died during it.
Hideko Takamine brilliantly played the role of a school teacher on a typical remote island community in south Japan during an increasingly militarist government. As was customary at the time, the same teacher saw to their students' education from primary to high school, forming a lifetime bond.
Director Keisuke Kinoshita's camera work is nothing less than genius, beautifully portraying the transitions of seasons from year to year. The water, sand, and dust textures are so distinct that you almost forget that it was filmed in black and white.
The character closeups are never exaggerated and the 12 children actors (hence "24 Eyes") do an outstanding job portraying how they end up sacrificing their childhood dreams due to poverty and for national duty.
Of symbolic note is the appearance of the Island bus, which is seen at first with Japanese kanji characters painted on the side. Later in the film, it's written in English as "Shima Bus", signifying how modernization has reached the island after the war.
From cast, location and cinematography, Nijushi no Hitomi is a masterpiece of emotional storytelling.
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