34 user 37 critic

Fires on the Plain (1959)

Nobi (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, War | 3 November 1959 (Japan)
In the closing days of WWII remnants of the Japanese army in Leyte are abandoned by their command and face certain starvation.




On Disc

at Amazon

6 wins. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama | Music | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

In the War's closing days, when a conscience-driven Japanese soldier fails to get his countrymen to surrender to overwhelming force, he adopts the lifestyle of a Buddhist monk.

Director: Kon Ichikawa
Stars: Rentarô Mikuni, Shôji Yasui, Tatsuya Mihashi
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

This sensuously beautiful film chronicles the activities of four sisters who gather in Kyoto every year to view the cherry blossoms. It paints a vivid portrait of the pre-war lifestyle of ... See full summary »

Director: Kon Ichikawa
Stars: Yoshiko Sakuma, Sayuri Yoshinaga, Yûko Kotegawa
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

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.

Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, Chikage Awashima
Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

As a conscript in war-time Japan's military, a pacifist struggles to maintain his determination to keep his ideals.

Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Stars: Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, Kokinji Katsura
Pitfall (1962)
Crime | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A man wanders into a seemingly deserted town with his young son in search of work. But after a bit of bad luck, he joins the town's population of lost souls.

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara
Stars: Hisashi Igawa, Sumie Sasaki, Sen Yano
Conflagration (1958)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Director: Kon Ichikawa
Stars: Raizô Ichikawa, Ganjirô Nakamura, Tatsuya Nakadai
The Heart (1955)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

At the end of Meiji era a young student befriend an older man who as a proof of trust but also as a kind of exorcism entrust him his secret, a story about jealousy, betrayal , shame and guilt.

Director: Kon Ichikawa
Stars: Masayuki Mori, Michiyo Aratama, Tatsuya Mihashi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Yukinojo, a Kabuki actor, seeks revenge by destroying the three men who caused the deaths of his parents. Also involved are the daughter of one of Yukinojo's targets, two master thieves, and a swordsman who himself is out to kill Yukinojo.

Director: Kon Ichikawa
Stars: Kazuo Hasegawa, Fujiko Yamamoto, Ayako Wakao
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A family of four are the sole inhabitants of a small island, where they struggle each day to irrigate their crops.

Director: Kaneto Shindô
Stars: Nobuko Otowa, Taiji Tonoyama, Shinji Tanaka
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A middle-aged bar hostess, constantly in debt, is faced with numerous social constraints and challenges posed to her by her family, customers and friends.

Director: Mikio Naruse
Stars: Hideko Takamine, Tatsuya Nakadai, Masayuki Mori
Documentary | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

Ichikawa's cameras follow the 1964 Summer Olympics from opening to closing ceremonies. Sometimes he focuses on spectators, as athletes pass in a blur; sometimes he isolates a competitor; ... See full summary »

Director: Kon Ichikawa
Stars: Abebe Bikila, Jack Douglas, Hirohito
Odd Obsession (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A man getting on in years sets out to find a way to resurrect his flagging virility.

Director: Kon Ichikawa
Stars: Machiko Kyô, Ganjirô Nakamura, Junko Kanô


Cast overview, first billed only:
Eiji Funakoshi ...
Osamu Takizawa ...
Mickey Curtis ...
Hikaru Hoshi ...
Mantarô Ushio ...
Masaya Tsukida ...
Yasushi Sugita ...
Yoshihiro Hamaguchi ...
Tatsuya Ishiguro
Yoshio Inaba
Jun Hamamura
Asao Sano ...
Shin Date
Kôichi Itô
Kisao Tobita


It is the Philipines, 1945. The Japanese Imperial Army has been reduced to a ragtag mob hiding in the jungles. Among them is Pvt. Tamura. The situation goes from bad to worse and in the face of the brutal conditions facing the men, some go insane and resort to murder and cannibalism. In the midst of this, Pvt. Tamura tries to survive without giving up his principles. Written by Eugene Ly <euge.ly@utoronto.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

3 November 1959 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Fires on the Plain  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In order to achieve maximum authenticity, actors were fed very little, and were not permitted to tend to matters of simple hygiene such as brushing their teeth and cutting their nails. As a precaution against serious deterioration of the actors' health, a number of nurses were always on call on the set. Eiji Funakoshi was never specifically told not to eat. He willingly starved himself to help get him into character. The rest of the cast and crew were unaware of this until he collapsed on-set. Production was shut down for two weeks. See more »


Tamura: [to soldier who suddenly has stopped moving] Hey, are you dead?
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

The Dead Sun
30 September 2006 | by (New Zealand) – See all my reviews

The main achievement of this film is that though racially unipolar, the film still manages to carve out a tableaux of war portrayals that leave a lasting identification with whoever may view it, and whoever was present at this time. Though good films may have the ability of universalizing their subjects, which is often a hard thing to do; great films have the ability of universalizing their unipolar subjects, which is what this film does.

Instead of carving a context of unity, the film depicts the Japanese in the sick finality of the Phillipines war-front in February, 1945, making signs for pacifism or war, but rather making signs of the feelings, death, destruction, victory and sickness of war with the bloody hands of the defeated.Far different, and superior, to films such as Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, both which needed a satirical methodology of trivializing and depersonalizing the American troupes, and using all races as one struggle, which is fine, yet not as grand as a film that uses one race and view, which would look fascist if created in America, to convey the horror of war and show what it is really like.

The only way the main character makes it through this movie to the end, is by being sick, thence inedible; hence through this character, through his sickness, his saving face, we see the end of WWII in the Phillipines in February of 1945, and the way in which the Americans, Japanese and Phillipinians came together in bloody acts of warfare where you live to die.

The film is patently influenced by a neorealist way of filmic portrayal, which is original and beneficial to a viewer, whether then or now, for the neorealist techniques it employs conveys all the horrors of war in pictorial form, whether a showcase for pacifism or 'militaristic responsibility'. Like Germania Anno Zero, by Roberto Rossellini, a story emerges from the environment and the conditions associated with it.

The film's opening, with the two-way discussion between the two Japanese soldiers, prefigures and reechoes the events. Through this opening we feel that the struggle is human against human, and human with human; it shows that they relied on each other to face the enemy in the past battles, but now, in this opening, or 'pivot' of the experiences of the Japanese in the Phillipines, new information is relayed to the main character Tamura, giving a presentiment of a cannibal reliance on one another if they wish to survive.

The jungle is gritty, wet and thick, and the sky is not infrequently cloudy and pouring. We wade with the stragglers though puddles and marshes, as sick as the land around them. Nameless cadavers are strewn everywhere. Every now and then one can not tell if they are bodies, rocks or corn. Apparently there is no difference here, all is dead and sick. All is dying. All they have lest to feed upon are rare monkeys and dead bodies of fallen comrades and/or nameless enemies.

Often Tamura meets a fallen other near death. Though crushed in spirit, and crushing his, some offer up their bodies for him to eat, but he refuses; he still, like Hiroshi Kawaguchi as Nishi in Giants and Toys, will not droop into the death of dignity and Japanese morals; for this is all he really has to hold up for his survival, a dignity of self. Hence, when Nagamatsu is dissecting a soldier for consumption, he shoots him because of it. Tamura may be used to the killing, but to the sickness of killing and pillaging he can't decipher. He is neither a good man or a bad man. He wishes to survive, but will not go the extra mile beyond simple straight-war-killing. His self belonged dead on the battlefield, he isn't happy here to wade and wipe the weak for his survival.

The sickness he carrys he sees everywhere, in everyone; and sadly he lacks the ethical rationale of thinking either thinking entirely about others, since he can't give up his body for them since of his contagious malady, or thinking entirely about himself, since he sees the sickness in everyone, though still killing them even if they do no harm. Seen in his attack on the two Philippians's in the hut. He can't see anyone. No one can see anyone. The only see an aversion from malady and an adversion to health, the heart of survival instincts.

Often, an arm appears pointing to the left of the screen, towards what must be hope, for there, in that far Thule lies their freedom. Yet it is blocked by American soldiers, leaving the Japanese stragglers to slowly die in this disconsolate dirt. Even a church tower appears, reflecting the light off an unseen sun. But on closer inspection crows flutter wildly about it; religion too is an air of poison.

Nobi, the Japanese title of the film, gives more evidence to the themes, or feelings of the film: the servitude to fate, the heaviness of existence under leaders and lives controlled by others. Its proper Anglophone translation has a subject of heavy debate among historians, as non-Koreans translate it as "slave" and "slavery", while many Koreans argue that nobi was not a slave system, but a servant class system that does not meet the criteria for slavery. A way to typically to escape wrenching poverty. This improves upon the war theme, and symbolism of soldiery.

Isn't it important at the time period to ask ourselves what the purpose is of what will become our won history? Should we be comfortable of letting it unroll without conscious effort for change? Is it not who we are fighting, that age old history question, but rather why are we fighting? Fires on the Plain is with Eiji Funakoshi, Osamu Takizawa, and Mickey Curtis; based on a novel by Shohei Ooka. In Japanese with subtitles.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Where can i find this? mowgli_07
petition Criterion mcfloodhorse
TCM showing profprimbud
Nobi on IFC - December 2006 gdface
Same Mickey Curtis? wolf_tooth_ofthe_sho
eastwood damolzanni242
Discuss Fires on the Plain (1959) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: