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The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1959)

Ningen no jôken (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, War | 14 December 1959 (USA)
A Japanese pacifist, unable to face the dire consequences of conscientious objection, is transformed by his attempts to compromise with the demands of war-time Japan.

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(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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5 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Chikage Awashima ...
Tôfuku Kin
...
Shunran Yô
...
...
Okishima
Akira Ishihama ...
Chin
Kôji Nanbara ...
Kô (as Shinji Nanbara)
Seiji Miyaguchi ...
Kyôritsu Ô
Tôru Abe ...
Watarai Gunsô
Masao Mishima ...
Kuroki Shochô
Eitarô Ozawa ...
Okazaki
...
Furuya
Akitake Kôno ...
Kôno Taii
Nobuo Nakamura ...
Honsha Buchô
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Storyline

In the World War II, the pacifist and humanist Japanese Kaji accepts to travel with his wife Michiko to the tiny Manchurian village Loh Hu Liong to work as supervisor in an iron ore mine to avoid to be summoned to the military service. Kaji works with Okishima (Sô Yamamura) and he implements a better treatment to the laborers and improves the mine production. When the feared Kempetai (The "Military Police Corps", the military police arm of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1881 to 1945) brings six hundred Chinese POWs to the mine, Kaji negotiates with their leaders expecting them to control their comrades. However the methods of Kaji upset the corrupt system in the site, and the foreman Furuya (Kôji Mitsui) plots a scheme to use the naive Chen (Akira Ishihama) to turn off the electrical power of the barbwire fences to allow the prisoners to escape. When seven prisoners are falsely accused of an attempt of fleeing, a cruel Kempetai sergeant uses his sword to behead the prisoners. When ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

An extraordinary picture of man's fate and man's hope...

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

14 December 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Human Condition I: No Greater Love  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In this film, the character of Okishima, one of the foremen of a Japanese mining camp in Manchuria during World War II, serves as a kind of mentor to the hero, Kaji, who works as a supervisor at the camp. For guidance and advice during filming, the actor who played Kaji, Tatsuya Nakadai (who had never before been cast in the leading role in a film), turned to the more seasoned actor who portrayed Okishima, Sô Yamamura, and they became close friends. Thus, the real-life relationship of Nakadai and Yamamura mirrored that of their on-screen characters. See more »

Goofs

At one point a Japanese guard begins to whip Kao, yet the motions he makes are just a flailing of his arms, visibly missing the actor. Kao retaliates by throwing a rock at the guard, but the rock never strikes the guard. However, the actor playing the guard overreacts as if he has been struck. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Michiko: This isn't like you.
Kaji: Why?
Michiko: You're running away. Don't you want me?
Kaji: Of course I do.
Michiko: And I want you, too. Yet we can't marry-...
Kaji: How many times must I explain?
Michiko: Because you might be called up? I wouldn't care if it was the day after. Of course I'd cry. I'd cry bitterly. But happiness only lies in marrying the one you love.
Kaji: Alright. I'll take you back to my dormitory. You'll stay with me tonight. Alright?
Michiko: Yes, I'll go.
[...]
See more »

Connections

Followed by The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer (1961) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Powerful anti-war statement, with a few false notes
9 December 2001 | by (Bloomington, IN) – See all my reviews

This film was hugely popular when it came out around 1960, reflecting the fiercely anti-war sentiment of the Japanese at the time. I have read that for a time when it came out, all three parts of The Human Condition (totaling nine and one-half hours) were shown in a single sitting at theaters in northern Tokyo, starting around 10 pm and ending in time for people to catch the trains home the next morning.

While it is a powerful film which portrays much of the suffering and brutality visited on the Chinese in Manchuria by the Japanese war machine, it is not without some rather unlikely plot twists. In particular, Kaji seems somewhat too saint-like to be believable.

It is worth mentioning that the title "The Human Condition" is perhaps misleading. The Japanese word "jouken" corresponding to "condition" is not normally used in a descriptive sense, but rather, as a condition to be fulfilled or satisfied. Thus the title might be better rendered "The Conditions for Being Human"--the implication being that in wartime, the conditions for remaining fully human are elusive at best.


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