An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord. The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back.
Perhaps Kobayashi's most sordid film, Black River is an exposé of the rampant corruption on and around U.S. military bases following World War II. Kobayashi spirals out from the story of a ... See full summary »
From the Criterion Collection: "Among the first Japanese films to deal directly with the scars of World War II, this drama about a group of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers jailed for crimes... See full summary »
On his deathbed, a wealthy businessman announces that his fortune is to be split equally among his three illegitimate children, whose whereabouts are unknown to his family and colleagues. A... See full summary »
Kobayashi's pitiless take on Japan's professional baseball industry is unlike any other sports film ever made. An excoriation of the inhumanity bred by a mercenary, bribery-fueled business,... See full summary »
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
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 »
This isn't like you.
You're running away. Don't you want me?
Of course I do.
And I want you, too. Yet we can't marry-...
How many times must I explain?
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.
Alright. I'll take you back to my dormitory. You'll stay with me tonight. Alright?
Yes, I'll go.
[...] See more »
The Human Condition (Ningen no jôken) is a 9,5 hour long epic film trilogy directed by Masaki Kobayashi, based on the six volume novel by Junpei Gomikawa. The trilogy stays true to the novel's composition by being divided into six parts, meaning that each of the three installments are split in two parts, in between which are intermissions. Both parts in the first film begin with the same opening credits sequence, showing us some stoneworks portraying dramatic imagery (the similar intro opens all three films). The three movies, each long 3 hours or more, are called No Greater Love, Road to Eternity and A Soldier's Prayer.
No Greater Love introduces the main character Kaji, a pacifist during the chaotic mess that was Japan during WW2. To avoid being drafted, he moves to Manchuria with his wife, where he becomes a labor camp supervisor and clashes with the oppressive nature of camp officials and their lower-ranked men.
Masaki Kobayashi's films often feature individuals against an oppressive and totalitarian system, be it the feudal Japan in Harakiri and Samurai Rebellion, or WW2 occupied Manchuria in The Human Condition. Kobayashi himself was drafted into the army and sent to Manchuria during the war, meaning that the character of Kaji is not far away from the director himself. Some people accuse the trilogy to be too melodramatic - well, if that's how Kobayashi saw the situation, and he was there, I don't have much of a big problem over it.
Kaji is brilliantly portrayed by Tatsuya Nakadai, one of the most versatile Japanese actors. He handles the role fantastically and lives up to the challenge of carrying the entire 9,5-hour plot on his back. Michiyo Aratama, who played Michiko, is perhaps more well-known for her role in Kobayashi's Kwaidan.
The Human Condition offers some brilliant widescreen composition and magnificent B&W imagery, as most Kobayashi films do. The film has some problems, though, most of which are of strictly technical nature. First, some of the violent scenes were filmed awkwardly, like the whipping scene listed under IMDb "Goofs". Second, because the entire cast was Japanese, the Mandarin spoken by the miners is very unrealistic (doesn't bother me personally, but it's still there). Third, the mining conditions are surprisingly underplayed and were even harsher in real life. Fourth, the music is sometimes too annoying, loud and even useless in several scenes.
But overall, this is definitely a film you have to check out if you're into Japanese cinema, WW2 films, or epic films in general.
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