Third part in Aleksandr Sokurov's tetrology, 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 Gen. 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 »
A hard viewing but psychologically interesting for some
Another part of Sokurov's "totalitarian" sequence, this is devoted to Japanese WW II-time Emperor Hirohito and his farewell to the old good times of imperial Japan and painful entry into new after-war realities of defeated Japan rising to "democracy" and subject to America's "civilizing".
Compared to the dictators previously depicted by Sokurov (Hitler and Lenin), Hirohito appears the least dictatorial: he sometimes is felt like a "hostage" of the desire to defend the country's own pass of development against the "corroding" influx of Western "plebeian" culture, the desire which led Japan into the fascist "axis" and determined its defeat when the old traditions of relying on the soldiers' spirit and honour and not technical power, and despising non-Japanese as barbarians did not justify themselves.
The film is a hard viewing even for art-house fans because of obscure (probably psychologically justified) coloring and virtually no exterior action. All the action is psychological depicting the way the Emperor comes to reality and to realizing (and publicly declaring) that he is a man, not God, and taking the disgrace of defeat on himself to save his country.
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