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 »
Majestic portrayal of the unknown Emperor of Japan of WW2
Director Sokourov's portrayal of the Japanese Emperor during the time of his capitulation to America is spellbinding and possibly unique. Japanese civilization and especially its culture from warriors to sex and love are totally different to western culture. Issei HiroHito who plays the role of the Emperor is majestic in human manner and mannerisms, spanning glimpses of ancient customs of etiquette, the significance of poetry and the new world of science (HiroHito's passion being marine biology). Most significant is his surprising awareness of the fateful decisions he has to take at the end of WW2 in order to bring Japan into the next era. Long lasting peace is his fervent vision. One is surprised to learn that he hardly participatedin the making of the military decisions: unaware of the attack on Pearl Harbour, for example. Luckily for Japan, MacArthur knew something about Japan and its rigid etiquette and sensitive non military culture, having been there before the war. Lukily for Japan, MacArthur decided on getting to know his opponent in person to person meetings with the Emperor before pronouncing judgment on whether the Emperor was guilty of being leader of the war or just an innocent person kept away from the important decisions. The two meetings between MacArthur and HiroHito when HirorHito spoke English (he said he also spoke other languages), were non-political and dealt mostly with personal matters of family and leisure interests. These discussions, subtly developed in the film, convinced MacArthur that HiroHito was innocent and that HiroHito could be a unifying force for a new Japan. (This positive attitude by America through MacArthur can be contrasted by the exact opposite of the Versaille Peace Treaty at the end of WW1 vindictively pushed through by the French and which proved to be, as Woodrow Wilson feared, a cause for further troubles in Europe, finally WW2.) What makes the film outstanding is Issei Ogata's sensitive and convincing portrayal of the Emperor concerned with human interests, who is considered by the Japanese as a God. Secondly, the decorum of the Japanese, so rigid to exclude all compromise. Luckily for the Japanese HiroHito found a way to compromise. Also the film's special color range suggested more undertones than either a documentary or a book. Essential to see to understand.
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