In 1939, Sakura Nishi is a young army nurse who is sent to the field hospitals in China during the Sino-Japanese war. She has to assist the surgeon Dr. Okabe with an incredible number of ... See full summary »
In 1939, Sakura Nishi is a young army nurse who is sent to the field hospitals in China during the Sino-Japanese war. She has to assist the surgeon Dr. Okabe with an incredible number of amputations. In the crowded wards, she gives sympathy to some of the soldiers, including sexually servicing one who has lost both arms and has no hope of returning home. She falls in love with Dr. Okabe, and follows him to the front, even though he is impotent from his morphine addiction. Written by
An estimated twenty million Chinese and two million Japanese soldiers were killed in the second Sino-Japanese War that lasted from 1937-1945. If anyone thought for one moment that there was a glorious aspect to this war or any other, Yasuzo Masamura's Red Angel will dispel that forever. Written by Ryozo Kasahara and based on a novel by Yoriyoshi Arima, Red Angel is a powerful anti-war drama in which scenes of rape, dismemberment, drug withdrawal, disease, and suicide are graphically shown by Masamura, who spares nothing except the erotic details of lovemaking. Set in Manchuria in the early days of the conflict, the "red angel" in the film is Nurse Sakura Nishi played by Masamura regular Ayako Wakao.
Nurse Nishi is stationed on the battlefield as a care giver but most patients, racked by loneliness and fear of impending death, see her as a sexually available woman. On her first night while making the rounds, Nishi is gang raped and held down by the group while she is sexually assaulted by Pvt. Sakamoto (Jotaro Senba). After reporting the incident to the head nurse, Nishi learns sadly that this is something she should have expected. Transferred to the front, Nishi is stationed at an army field hospital where she assists Dr. Okabe (Shinsuke Ashida), the only available surgeon in performing amputations.
With few drugs and not enough blood available for transfusions, Okabe is forced to amputate arms and legs in hopes of saving the young men but is torn by feelings of guilt and remorse. He believes that most of the amputees would be better off dead since he knows that the Army will not let them go home because they would symbolize the idea that Japan is losing the war. Nishi pleads with Okabe to give a blood transfusion to Sakamoto, the man who had raped her during her first assignment and Okabe agrees but on the condition that Nishi comes to visit him at night. Discovering that Okabe is a man of compassion, Nishi sympathizes with his plight and begins to fall in love with him, though it cannot be expressed because the doctor is a morphine addict and is impotent.
In one of the most heart-wrenching sequences, Nurse Nishi takes pity on Pvt. Orihara (Yusuke Kawazu) who has lost both of his arms. After pleading with the young nurse to relieve him of his sexual frustration, she takes him to a hotel where he expresses his pent-up passion but the evening proves too much for him to handle. In the final and most moving segment, a cholera attack has decimated the remaining soldiers who are surrounded by Chinese troops and as death becomes closer, Nishi and Okabe vow to make every effort to preserve their humanity even through Nishi's attempt to end Okabe's morphine addiction.
Although there is romance in Red Angel, Masamura makes it quite evident that a normal relationship is impossible under conditions of war. His vision of war is one of hell where there is no honor or glory, only physical and emotional degradation and killing in the name of patriotism. Although Red Angel is lurid and has moments of melodrama, it is a brutally honest film that shows war without sentimentality, perhaps a reason for it remaining unreleased until Fantoma Films resurrected it on a widescreen DVD in 2006.
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