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Josef von Sternberg,
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This is a well known movie in the history of Japanese movies. Sometime in my childhood, I heard the theme song every day on a radio. For long years this movie has been on my wish list.
And just few years ago, I read a news that the woman who triggered the making of the movie died. Mrs. Tanaka Kiyo, a wife of a lighthouse keeper, wrote about her own life for a women' magazine. A movie producer happened to read it and was heavily moved, who planned to make the movie.
Then this movie. This is by no means a sophisticated movie. Poor acting performance, particularly the lead actor Sada Keiji acts awkwardly. He does not cover well the ages from early 20s through late 40s. As for the screenplay, you can tell the differences in reality between the topics based on real stories and the fiction.
Nevertheless, this 160 minutes long movie has power that keeps audience attention until the end. I think the power comes from the reality it portrays, the fact that there actually are people who serve with their families for this thankless job of lighthouse keepers. Lighthouse keeper is a lonely, monotonous and somber job. Yet it is dangerous in case of storm. As most lighthouses are located in remote, secluded place, their families suffer heavily. This movie not only depicts the life of lighthouse keepers, but also let us think about the meaning of work and being wife and husband. The following conversation typically expresses it:
Wife(in bed of sickness): People must have forgotten us. I doubt even the ships going offshore know how much burden we are having to protect their safe navigation. Husband: Even if no one cares, it does not matter. My burden you know, your burden I know.
In 1950's when the movie was made, many Japanese were empathized with such view on labor. Today? I believe it still works.
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