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 »
Sokurov's haunting recreation of how Emperor Hirohito spent the last hours before the Japanese surrender, this is a miraculous work, and it provided the most powerful aesthetic and emotional experience of the 2005 New York Film Festival, whose official selections were not lacking in depth and fine film-making.
"The Sun" depicts a man who knows very well what is going on but lives in a cocoon, in a state of detachment and ineffectuality that becomes strangely heartrending. Issey Ogata's performance as the Emperor easily competes for hypnotic intensity with Bruno Ganz's Hitler in the German film "Downfall" -- but with a very different sort of bunker and a very different kind of man: a silent, immaculate country house with a few faithful servants in attendance; a small, frail but upright and dignified personage who can easily explain the causes of the Japanese defeat to his general staff but has never learned to dress himself or open a door. Even on this day he is more comfortable browsing through photos of his family and American movie stars, dictating notes on marine biology, and writing poetry. Despite the disgrace, he is selflessly happy that peace has come. He inks a brush to write a statement to his absent son, but instead drafts a few verses about the weather.
Later he is taken to see Eisenhower, and then brought back again to dine with the general. He enjoys the wine and the meat and has his first taste of a Havana cigar. The Americans conclude that the Emperor is like a child. "What's it like being a living god?" Ike asks. And speaking, to the dismay of the Japanese interpreter, in perfect English, Hirohito says, "What can I tell you? You know, it is not easy being Emperor." These are just a few details in a film rich in telling ones. Simply enumerating them can't explain this film's slow, cumulative emotional wallop -- or the lovely, fantastic, dreamlike landscape images toward the end. This film about one of modern history's most humiliating defeats is a stunning triumph.
"The Sun" demonstrates unmistakably that Andrei Sokurov is one of the world's great filmmakers.
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