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The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (I) (1959)
"Ningen no jôken" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama, War  |  14 December 1959 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.5/10 from 3,363 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 35 critic

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.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Michiyo Aratama ...
Chikage Awashima ...
Tôfuku Kin
Ineko Arima ...
Shunran Yô
Keiji Sada ...
Akira Ishihama ...
Kôji Nanbara ...
Kô (as Shinji Nanbara)
Seiji Miyaguchi ...
Kyôritsu Ô
Tôru Abe ...
Watarai Gunsô
Masao Mishima ...
Kuroki Shochô
Eitarô Ozawa ...
Kôji Mitsui ...
Akitake Kôno ...
Kôno Taii
Nobuo Nakamura ...
Honsha Buchô


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


Drama | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

14 December 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Human Condition I: No Greater Love  »

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2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


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 »


[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 »


Followed by The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity (1959) See more »

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User Reviews

Catching the Train Of Humanism
23 May 2013 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

"The Human Condition" is an extremely acclaimed trilogy of movies, directed by Masaki Kobayashi and based on the novel by Jompei Gomikawa. Starring Tatsuya Nakadai, the whole trilogy is considered to be one of the greatest achievements in Japanese cinema history, a true landmark gem that is the very definition of an Epic World War II movie.

The first part of the series is "No Greater Love": Kaji and his wife Michiko move to Manchuria, at the time colonized by the Japanese. There, Kaji works as a labor supervisor in a camp of Chinese prisoners. Being a convinced pacifist, Kaji tries desperately to help the Chinese by promising that no harm will be inflicted to them by the Japanese supervisors, and at the same time, out hero struggles with his superiors because of his strong will to bring a bit of humanity to the brutal conditions in which the prisoners live in. Kaji of course will find it hard to satisfy either the prisoners or the bosses, especially when some of the Chinese prisoners start escaping.

Despite the massive length of this first chapter (three hours and a half), "No Greater Love" is consistently a thrill to watch, because it's easy to sympathize with the protagonist, it's easy to see everything through his eyes and as a consequence to be fully engaged in his struggles. Kaji however is never truly appreciated, not even by the Chinese, who are always skeptical of his humanism. From an artistic point of view, there's nothing you need more in a film: a great script, a memorable performance by leading man Tatsuya Nakadai, and perhaps above all, the masterful touch of director Masaki Kobayashi, who never fails to frame beautiful shots and, with the help of the art department and cinematographer Yoshio Miyajima, to create a perfect, earthy atmosphere.

Although it's more of a long introduction to the story of the trilogy as a whole, setting-wise, and, if you will, stylistically, it's a completely different beast than its follow-ups: "No Greater Love" as a matter of fact is a stand-alone masterpiece, if you don't count the necessarily abrupt ending that directly connects it with the next two films. This film alone already is one of the great feature films of Japanese cinema, a statement that ought to imply the authentic greatness of this trilogy.

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