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The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity More at IMDbPro »Ningen no jôken (original title)

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18 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

one of the great (anti) war movies ever, certainly the pinnacle from Japan

10/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
27 July 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Human Condition isn't an easy trilogy; it offers up tons of questions that even today have extreme relevance, particularly about man's duty to himself, to love and family, to country, to affiliation by an Emperor or Dictator, and what it is that's so insane about men in the staggering pit of hell known as war. As one can see in the second installment, The Road to Eternity, even what should be simple in a conventional war movie is turned just a bit to see the ugliness underneath. The first half of the film is Kaji, the trilogy's protagonist, in basic training and witness to more brutality towards the weak Obara (very well cast Kunie Tanaka) who commits suicide following a string of humiliations that are like Private Pyle squared Japan WW2, and how Kaji comes to grips with being a very good, disciplined soldier- the likes of which the army wants to control as they promote him- and, crucially, his last night spent with his wife Machiko (very tender performance from Aratama).

The second half is Kaji off on the front lines, leading up to a big, climactic battle between Soviet and Japanese forces, which is a total horror. Although Kobayashi only goes so far to make these battle scenes dynamic (that is compared to today's battle scenes, which have far more money and just a smidgen more gore to work with), it's overall another incredible accomplishment, as story and character matter always more-so than grandiose visuals or pomposity. We see Kaji going through another level of change, as he's stripped of his "exemption" status and is now just another grunt in this rigidly regimented military, and where, as is expected but no less mortifying, the Japanese see no sign of victory despite all signs pointing otherwise.

As in the first film, Kobayashi delivers moments of beauty, almost at times without trying. I absolutely was floored when the prairie fire scene turned into a desperate chase between Kaji and an escaping Shinjo, where what could have been a basic chase incorporated the fire and smoke and mud-piles into something else entirely. Or, indeed, little moments that suddenly make one's mouth agape, such as the freak-out from a soldier in the midst of the battle foaming at the mouth. If a few scenes might appear to be of the conventional sort (at least as much as Kobayashi would ever allow in this iconoclast approach), they're off-set by the wonderful performances, not least of which by Nakadai. Again he gives it his all, and matures just a little more, and displays a kind of bridge that Kaji is on between the kind-hearted but firm ways of No Greater Love and the, dare I say it, near bad-ass persona in Soldier's Prayer.

It's another great entry in an impeccable trilogy, if maybe not quite as awe-inspiring as the final film.

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Losing ground.

7/10
Author: Polaris_DiB from United States
15 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Or, as with the Lord of the Rings books, part III and IV.

Here is featured Kaji's military exploits in boot camp and the Manchurian front. As predictable based on the previous movie, Kaji beats heads with the military and comes out worse for wear from it. The better side of these movies is Kaji's critical thinking and intelligence, but this time around he makes some pretty foolish decisions considering that at this point he is not only without power, but completely suspect. Nevertheless, our headstrong hero manages to protect his everyman principles and save a few trainees from being severely beaten at boot-camp--this time largely by taking the beatings himself. I have to admit, there's only so many times you can watch Kaji getting beaten up before you begin to think that it's all getting pretty ridiculous. Not a whole lot was gained by his actions this time around for the amount of pain and humiliation he endures.

A particular subplot of note involves the mentally unstable Obara, a Japanese Pvt Pyle from thirty years before Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, who meets a very similar fate. In fact, it's pretty certain that Kubrick saw this movie, though the effort may have been returned considering that some of the later battle scenes in this movie seem right out of Paths of Glory, which was made three years before this one. Of course, my Kubrick comparisons may simply have something to do with Kobayashi's widescreen compositions, where every amount of positive and negative space is used to careful, calculating effect.

Meanwhile, the prolonged battle sequences at the end of Part IV are something unto themselves. After the long and political journey we've taken through Japanese nationalism and its corruption, Kobayashi doesn't shy in the least bit from showing dismembered limbs, blown up bodies, and madness taking away men's lives. And it's interesting to see that Kaji, no longer in a place to stand up to authority, no longer has the ability to control his own madness.

These two parts are slightly looser than the first third of The Human Condition. A long sequence involving a hospital stay sticks out like a piece from a different puzzle especially, in what is for the most part a carefully crafted novelistic film. Not a whole lot is added by Kaji's experiences in the hospital except for a simple set-up of a later relationship and the death of a corrupt PFC. Of the entire 7hrs30mins the complete movie has run so far, I do believe a fair bit of Part III could have been cut out.

So now we are left with Kaji's newfound guilt and battle experience as he becomes a POW to the Russians. Considering how ineffective he was at creating positive change in this second third as opposed to the first third, it's not looking like he's got a whole lot of ground left to stand on, and now he has to seriously question himself as well.

--PolarisDiB

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26 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

Deeply Moving

10/10
Author: torii15
24 March 2002

It's been a long time since I've seen "Ningen no joken II", the second of Kibiyashi's trilogy: "The Human Condition". One scene (and you'll know it if you see the film) is one of the most visually stunning and heart wrenching in movie history. The rest of the film isn't far behind it with Tatsuya Nakadai giving a brilliant performance playing a good man caught in the monstrous jaws of history. Deeply moving.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity

8/10
Author: mevmijaumau from Croatia
23 October 2014

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.

So far, I'm two thirds into the trilogy and I find Road to Eternity to be lesser than the first film. RtE follows Kaji as a conscript in Japanese military, first concentrating on his experiences during basic training and later shifting to a battlefield. Now, RtE surpasses NGL on a technical scale; there's no sugar-coating of historical events, no Japanese actors trying to pass up as the Chinese (except in one, scarcely important scene) and no melodramatic orchestral music (instead, RtE sports a militaristic, more quiet soundtrack).

However, this entry in the trilogy reaches the point when the entire story starts to get really repetitive and you really get the feeling that you've seen Kaji humiliated and beaten up enough times to start getting tired by the film. There are a LOT of forgettable scenes of little importance which do nothing but prolong the runtime in order to provide artificial oomph. This is also true for NGL to some extent, but in the first movie I found the storyline to be way more absorbing. Most of RtE occurs in darkly lit, claustrophobic barracks and tight areas where you can't even differentiate the characters. This change of location just isn't as interesting to me as the camp in NGL, but it makes sense because Kaji's humanism is completely beaten to the ground in this movie, and the sudden set change reflects that.

Even though I think that the second movie is less captivating than the first, it still has two powerful things going for it; first, the cinematography, once again, is absolutely amazing and Kobayashi once more shows his talent in crafting widescreen, chiaroscuro shots. Second, the final 30 minutes on the battlefield are brilliantly shot, acted out, put together and manage to be brutal, tense and contemplative all in one. Obviously the actors playing the Soviet soldiers are Japanese so Kobayashi doesn't show their faces, but I think that little detail actually adds to the movie's symbolic value.

By the way, the reason why this is the shortest entry in the trilogy is probably because it was cut. The scene where Michiko strips naked for Kaji was censored by a government comitee.

7,5/10

I should also mention that this movie heavily inspired Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (which I think is a much better film by the way). The novel upon which FMJ is based on, The Short-Timers, was written after Kobayashi's trilogy. Here are the similarities between the two films:

1) Both films are divided into two parts. First part is basic training, the second is set on a battlefield.

2) The main characters in both films (Kaji, Joker) are recruits who oppose the brutal military conditioning, but in the same time are able to adapt to their surroundings without losing their ideals. Both Kaji and Joker have feuds with their respective drill instructors, however the DIs also respect them to a point for showing their guts.

3) Both Kaji and Joker befriend a fellow recruit (Shinjo, Cowboy). They have discussions while cleaning the toilet.

4) Both groups have a weak, slow recruit who isn't able to adapt to given orders. In RtE it's pvt. Obara (who strangely looks like pvt. Baldrick from Blackadder Goes Forth), in FMJ it's pvt. Pyle. In both films, they do something stupid which makes the DI hate them (throwing a cigarette in the water barrel in RtE, hiding a jelly doughnut in FMJ).

5) Kaji/Joker takes Obara/Pyle under his wing, but everyone else hates the weak recruit. This character is constantly humiliated in both films. In FMJ, he's forced to act like a baby, while in RtE he has to behave like a geisha (sgt. Hartman also likes to compare his men with ladies).

6) Both characters get fed up and commit suicide on a toilet seat by pointing the rifle upwards and shooting (Pyle out of insanity, Obara out of shame). The music in this scene is very similar in both Kubrick's and Kobayashi's film. Pyle's suicide isn't committed on the toilet in The Short Timers, but instead in front of the other members of the group.

7) Some training sequences and punishments are very similar, if not identical.

Here's the album with comparison images: http://imgur.com/a/XeNP5

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

The Human Delusion Continues

7/10
Author: Theo Robertson from Isle Of Bute, Scotland
17 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I fell in love with this trilogy as a teenager in the 1980s . Getting to see part one of THE HUMAN CONDITION after a gap of 25 years reminded me that love is never eternal . The aesthetic beauty of this cinematic epic remained but its personality had changed beyond all memory , a memory that had cheated and like a disloyal lover it's an experience that hurts . Seeing part two means the hurt continues . By no means a bad film the subtext of a man trying to retain his humanity in an inhumane society becomes more and more ridiculous as the story continues

Commentators on this page have stated how overdone this humanism is and I can't believe I didn't notice this on first viewing in the mid 1980s . One serious criticism about BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI is that it sugar coated the conditions of a Japanese POW camp and likewise this was a major flaw with the first part of THE HUMAN CONDITION with its laid back Manchurian labour camp . In reality the only difference between the Nazi regime and the Imperial Japanese one is that the Nazis used gas to murder its slave population and one wonders if Kaji has been conscripted in to an alternative universe rather than the Japanese Imperial Army !

Much of the running time is composed of :

Kaji: Excuse me Commanding Officer but I have read the rule book and this bullying of the recruits is wrong

CO: Private Kaji you're starting to sound like that British officer I knew who worked on the Burma railway but you're such a decent , caring wonderful human being I'll rewrite the rule book just for your benefit even though you've only been in the army for two minutes and a suspected communist traitor . The veterans won't like it though

Cut to next scene where Kaji gets a hiding from the veterans

Having a nice guy as a protagonist so the audience can identify with himis one thing but the pious stand up nature of Kaji becomes so ridiculously overdone as to become almost laughable . I say " almost" because this isn't a film that will make you laugh

What stops the film being destroyed by the characterization is the sheer beauty of it . Every scene is exceptionally well framed and shot and despite the flawed characterizations is well acted enough to remain compelling . It also contains one of the greatest battle scenes committed to celluloid where the understrength Kwangtung unit vainly fights against the Soviet offensive . This Soviet offensive ( Operation August Storm ) saw the Red Army kill tens of thousands of Japanese troops and capture hundreds of thousands in the space of a couple of weeks . Indeed the official Soviet history books stated the reason for the Japanese surrender wasn't the atom bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki but the spectacular defeat in Manchuria

It's strange that such a flawed film as this should stay in my memory so vividly but THE HUMAN CONDITION is such a vividly beautiful film that its flaws can be easily forgiven - and eventually forgotten

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Middle of a trilogy that is one of the great movies of all time

10/10
Author: ekeby from wisconsin
7 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've commented on parts I and III, so will comment again here, even though having just seen all three it is hard for me to separate one from the other. All three are superb, essentially telling the beginning, middle, and end of a story.

I'll repeat a caution here: don't read the DVD box or too many (if any) reviews for fear of spoilers. This is one cinema experience you don't want to spoil.

The movies must be seen in order, but not necessarily at one sitting. I split my viewing into different weeks and I don't think doing so diluted my experience.

What you need to know is this trilogy is one of the greatest achievements in cinema of all time. Every aspect of it, almost relentlessly, is as perfect as film gets. The storyline--if such an ordinary word can be applied here--cannot be called anything other than tragic. I'll repeat what I said in my review of part III; while there are some moments of great tenderness, there is no humor at all. It is a drama in every sense of the word.

Knowing something of the subject, I was somewhat reluctant to watch the series, fearing it would be too much of a downer. It's a depressing subject, yes, but it's great art. Great art is uplifting.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Full-Metal Jacket for Grown-Ups

10/10
Author: OttoVonB from Switzerland
8 March 2013

Part II of Masaki Kobayashi's "Human Condition" follows the noble Kaji (Tatsuya Nakadai), now forced into military service, as he tries to hold on to his conscience despite increasingly absurd circumstances.

If Part I was a POW drama with a love story sub-plot, influencing many that followed it, then Part II is one of the best and rawest of the original boot-camp films, planting seeds for, in particular, "Full Metal Jacket". In fact, Kaji's training with the Imperial Army makes US Boot Camp look like daycare, uninclined as director Kobayashi is to pull punches when it comes to the ritual sadism of the Japanese military, which he personally endured in real life. The film bravely confronts Kaji's attitude, an almost holier-than-thou morality than annoys bullying veterans. This forces Kaji to deeply transform as a character and as a human being, from preppy moralist to actual, worn hero, a transition Nakadai pulls off with tremendous effect and efficiency.

But back to the bigger picture. Like Kubrick's similar – and, one should point out, lesser – film of the same genre, this is two pictures in one: a boot-camp film about the dehumanization of the military, and a war film. The first two thirds are all intensive training, with bullying veterans and hapless recruits. Here Kaji faces an interesting contradiction: he rejects the war with all his heart, yet he has it in him to be a perfect warrior. There is the inevitable inept recruit pushed to the brink subplot, but it is handled with more humanity and sense of absurdity than most other similar films could dream of.

Finally, the film takes us to the front, where all the bluster and empty honor fades in front of a line of charging enemy tanks, a startlingly effective battle scene that separates the men from the boys, though not in ways they had anticipated. Kobayashi's film rejects the traditional "bridge syndrome" typical of middle installments in film trilogies, and gives us the perfect Part II: a self-contained enough story with enough substance and depth to stand on its own, while drawing from its predecessor and opening up interesting possibilities for the finale.

Roll on part III.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The continuing story of Kaji--a man born at the wrong time and the wrong place.

9/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
24 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the second of three films that make up "The Human Condition" trilogy. The extremely long films are based on an extremely long set of novels (in six volumes) by Jumpei Gomikawa. The books are about the journey of a man named Kaji who is simply born at the wrong time and place. His ideas about the worth of the individual and the humanity of mankind fly in opposition to the militarism of WWII-era Japan. And, not surprisingly they get him in lots of trouble. In the first film, he's assigned to be the production manager at a mine that is worked by prisoners--and the people in charge couldn't care less about how many of them they kill in the process. But Kaji's humanistic ideals are put into action instead and at first they are very successful. But the military men hate him and when he stumbles, they attack him like wolves.

Here in part II, Kaji's been drafted and sent to basic training. He's seen as a trouble-maker because of his experience at the labor camp, but Kaji is a great soldier. And, unlike the average soldier in the company, he cares about the individual. So, when recruit Obara is beaten and humiliated, Kaji is the only one who sticks up for the guy--although with only one man supporting him and the rest tormenting him, what happens next isn't at all surprising--Obara kills himself. The soldiers in the unit are actually pretty happy about this--Obara was a weakling. But Kaji refuses to back down and fights his superiors, as he is fighting for what is right--and brutalizing and disregarding a weak individual is wrong.

Later, Kaji manages to be promoted and he's placed in charge of a group of older recruits (as the war is going badly, they began bringing up less and less fit men to serve). He refuses to brutalize his men and the leaders of the older veterans beat Kaji up regularly. He refuses to fight back--sort of like Gandhi. Again and again he's beaten and again and again he does nothing. And, he tries to protect his men as much as he can.

Later, when the war is all but over, Kaji is sent along with other ill-prepared men to meet the Russian army and their tanks. And, after this slaughter occurs, the movie ends...and Kaji is left alive on the battlefield.

Much of the film seemed to be a criticism on the pointlessly brutal system where underlings were beaten for no reason whatsoever by their immediate superiors. The officers did nothing to change this and Kaji still refuses to bend to this insane situation. Instead of training focusing on teamwork and camaraderie, it's based on destroying the weak and empowering the amoral. All in all, a depressing but well made indictment on the Japanese militaristic mentality of the day. If you are looking for a similar sort of film, try finding "Fire on the Plains" (also 1959) or "The Burmese Harp" (1956). Well worth seeing.

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

First Sequel of an Anti-War Masterpiece

10/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
13 February 2013

Kaji is sent to the Japanese army labeled of Red and is mistreated by the vets. Along his assignment, Kaji witnesses cruelties in the army; he revolts against the abusive treatment spent to the recruit Obara that commits suicide; he also sees his friend Shinjô Ittôhei defecting to the Russian border; and he ends in the front to fight a lost battle against the Soviet tanks division.

"The Human Condition – Parts III & IV" is the first sequel of the anti- war masterpiece by Masaki Kobayashi. The story is impressively realistic and magnificently shot with top-notch camera work, giving the sensation of a documentary. But maybe the most impressive is to see the treatment of the Japanese military with their soldiers. If they treated their own compatriots with such brutality, imagine how the enemies would be treated? My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): Not Available

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