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

 -  Drama | War  -  3 November 1959 (Japan)
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 2,794 users  
Reviews: 33 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 »

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Details

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Release Date:

3 November 1959 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Fires on the Plain  »

Filming Locations:

 »

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Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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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

Tamura: [to soldier who suddenly has stopped moving] Hey, are you dead?
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User Reviews

salt of the earth
14 October 2004 | by (Kansas) – See all my reviews

In Ichikawa Kon's film _The Harp of Burma_ the company of soldiers led by Captain Inoue, although a bit travel worn and homesick, looked at least to be in decent health and well fed in the foreign environs of Burma. However, in his film _Fires on the Plain_ the Japanese soldiers stationed on the Island of Leyte in the Phillipines are malnourished, desperate men who are willing to do anything to survive

The first scene in the film depicts Pvt. Tamura being slapped viciously by his superior. The superior is angry because Tamura returned to their regiment. a sufferer of tuberculosis, Tamura is unable to support himself and relies on the other soldiers, who can barely forage enough food for themselves, to gather food for him. Not wanting a dependent in their midst, Tamura superior sends him back to the hospital along with a few potatoes. Tamura does, however, have one more key item in his possession: a hand grenade.

If he tires of living or is unable to, Tamura is to kill himself with the grenade. The grenade appears several times in the film. One can almost see the gears turning in his head, an inner struggle whether he wants to live or die. However, each times he decides to keep trudging along.

Tamura does in fact arrive back at the hospital, but of course he is refused. The doctors will only let men who are very near death to stay in the hospital. Tamura, unwanted in his own camp, decides to stat with a group of stragglers who have also been cast out of their respective companies. Tamura is able to make friends with these individuals at least until the Americans begin bombing the area. The doctors leave the patients, first taking all the food, to be blown up in the bombing, and Tamura and friend are separated to the four winds.

Tamura continues his travels and eventually arrives in a small village where he kills a Fillpino girl who would not stop screaming. He also tries to kill her boyfriend, but he runs away successfully.

Tamura begins to care for the wounded girl, but pushes her out of the way when he discovers a hidden cache of salt. He soon continues his journey to no real destination.

_Fires on the Plain_ is a brutal film which depicts the remnants of the once powerful Japanese army struggling to survive, but without any hope of ever being truly rescued. These soldiers just want to live for a few hours longer, their primal instincts to survive much stronger than dieing in service of the Emperor. A will to survive that will even make some of them eat "Monkey Meat."

However, even in this bleak film there are some signs of humanity. Tamura although tubercular and emancipated willingly shares his few rations and his precious salt even when he has little. There are moments of semi friendship between Tamura and the stragglers, and also between Tamura and another soldier named Nagamatsu, however, the outlook is bleak for our pleasant spoken Tamura.

Based on a novel written by Ooka Shohei.


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