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If you are thinking of watching this, you need to know what your are getting into first. This is a violent movie, in the extreme.
I do not ordinarily watch violent movies. But I am glad I watched this one, even though I had to turn away a few times. The subject matter is about violence, and the director pulls no punches.
It is so easy to romanticize war, either in victory or defeat. This movie clearly has a message for the Japanese people about WWII that the director intends them never to forget. That it was received so well, speaks well of the Japanese people's honesty. And it has a message for her Asian neighbors who suffered at the hands of Japanese soldiers, that perhaps hate is no longer appropriate.
Viewing it as an American, I was struck by how different the image is from that of the well-disciplined soldier presented almost as a polite stereotype in Hollywood movies. An American director could not have gotten away with such a movie. However, I can't help wondering if this is perhaps not exactly a representative view of what Japanese soldiers went through.
The movie is told very effectively through its plot, following the inquiries of the war widow into the death of her husband. As the truth comes out, it hits you in the gut much as it would have hit this widow.
At the same time, the director apparently did not intend for this film to be viewed too narrowly as an antiwar movie. It is not just about war, and it is not just about Japanese soldiers, it is about human beings, and what any of us might do in similar circumstances.
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