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Fires on the Plain (1959)
"Nobi" (original title)

 -  Drama | War  -  3 November 1959 (Japan)
8.0
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 2,884 users  
Reviews: 32 user | 31 critic

In the closing days of WWII remnants of the Japanese army in Leyte are abandoned by their command and face certain starvation.

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Title: Fires on the Plain (1959)

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Cast

Credited cast:
Eiji Funakoshi ...
Tamura
Osamu Takizawa ...
Yasuda
Mickey Curtis ...
Nagamatsu
Mantarô Ushio ...
Sergeant
Kyû Sazanka ...
Army surgeon
Yoshihiro Hamaguchi ...
Officer
Asao Sano ...
Soldier
Masaya Tsukida ...
Soldier
Hikaru Hoshi ...
Soldier
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Shizuo Chûjô
Jun Hamamura
Tomio Hanano
Yûzô Hayakawa ...
(as Yuji Hayakawa)
Keiichi Hosokawa
Tatsuya Ishiguro
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Storyline

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

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

3 November 1959 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Fires on the Plain  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Quotes

Dying Buddhist soldier: [to Tamura as he opens his eyes] What? You still here? Poor guy, when I'm dead, you can eat this.
[He outstretches his arm]
Dying Buddhist soldier: [Disgusted by the thought, Tamura leaves] Come back! You can eat me!
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Monkey Business
23 February 2008 | by (Ireland) – See all my reviews

I got this movie out a week after the death of Ichikawa Kon - I suppose if there is one way to mark the passing of a great director, its to raise a glass of wine to him while watching one of his greatest movies. Ichikawa had one of the finest careers in Japanese film, but as he never had a distinctive style or theme he often seems to be overlooked compared to his near contemporaries such as Ozu and Kurosawa (he was a little younger than them, but not by much). He is one of those directors who defies auteur theories - its likely that his wife (who wrote the screenplay for this and many other of his movies) was as much responsible for the quality of the movies as he was. But at his best, he was as good as any Japanese film maker at the time. In particular, he had great technical skills, allowing him to tell complex stories in an accessible manner. But in terms of theme, this movie could hardly be simpler - war is hell. No really, its seriously hell.

Fire on the Plain doesn't follow the normal war genre rules. There is no real beginning - we start as the wretched Tamura, who is a regular private (although it is implied he is more thoughtful and educated than most of the others - at one stage it is shown he understands English, but he clams up when the others ask him how he knows it) is ordered to hospital, as his unit is already in an appalling state. The soldiers are defeated and starving to death. They are no longer an army, just a rag bag group of refugees - hunted by the locals, and pretty much ignored by the Americans, who have bigger fish to fry. Hunger and despair is driving the soldiers to the edge and beyond of madness.

In typical Ichikawa style, its not all just grim - its oddly funny in parts (a very black humour of course).

The high points of this movie to me are the outstanding performances from the leads and the vivid photography. The characters, in all their humanity, but also their complete loss of humanity, are all too believable. This is that rare film - one which will refuse to erase itself from your head, even if you want to forget it.


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