Third part in Aleksandr Sokurov's quadrilogy of Power, following Moloch (1999) and Taurus (2001), focuses on Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Japan's defeat in World War II when he is finally confronted by General Douglas MacArthur who offers him to accept a diplomatic defeat for survival.
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As Japan nears defeat at the end of World War II, Emperor Hirohito starts his day in a bunker underneath the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. A servant reads to him a list of activities for the day, including a meeting with his ministers, marine biology research, and writing his son. Hirohito muses about the impact on such schedules when the Americans arrive but is told that as long as there is a solitary Japanese person living, the Americans will not reach The Emperor. Hirohito replies that he at times feels like he himself will be the last Japanese person left alive. The servant reminds him that he is a deity, not a person, but Hirohito points out that he has a body just like any other man. He later reflects on the causes of the war when dictating observations about a hermit crab, and then about the peace to come when composing a letter to his son. Soon enough General Douglas MacArthur's personal car is sent to bring him through the ruins of Tokyo for a meeting with the supreme commander ... Written by
Aleksandr Sokurov kept the name of the actor playing the Emperor secret, since it is taboo in Japan to play an Emperor on film. Sokurov was afraid for the safety of the actor, after Nagisa Ôshima told him there have been two attempts on his life after he criticized Imperial Japan during WWII. See more »
I've never watched Russian Ark, Moloch or Taurus by Alexander Sokurov, but this was a real gem of a film and I will be keeping an eye out for other works by Sokurov. This is a film which captures the humanity of the Japanese Emperor Hirohito in the subsequent defeat of Nazi Germany. The role of Hirohito is played by Issei Ogata who makes a tremendous performance as the last Meiji Emperor, who comes across as a rather fallible and tolerant emperor. He struggles with the Japanese defeat and how to best deal with General MacArthur played by Robert Dawson.
Overall , I would give this film a 10/10 for the simple reason that the cinematic takes are absolutely breathtaking. The movie is engaging from the very beginning and Sokurov's portrayal of the ailing emperor inside an underground bunker requires tremendous talent and fantasy. Furthermore, I also liked the way Sokurov did not focus on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; I feel this would undermined the whole purpose of the film, which is biographical. On the negative side, however, I was rather unimpressed by the role of MacArthur, I felt it was a weak role and did not live to the Great General. Also, the GI's were pretty awful.
But it remains impressive , I highly recommend it!
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