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 »
"The Sun" was a good way to introduce ourselves to the minimalist, detail-obsessed films of Alexander Sokurov -- so thanks to Minnesota Film Arts for showing it at St. Anthony Main, February 2010.
Sokurov's Emperor Hirohito is not only humanized in this film, he finds redemption, if in a limited way that leaves him assailable for his true weakness: weakness of will, anxiety of spirit, and dreamy preference for leisurely study and cool contemplation. Hirohito is a true nobleman where his job called for either a savior or a butcher.
The actor who plays Hirohito has an amazing technique. All of his facial features and especially his mouth and front teeth are applied very deliberately to create the sense of a careful, intelligent, and ultimately ordinary man.
What to say of Sokurov's unique vision? It's something like a documentary of daily habits, a virtuosic sequencing of mundane and ritual behavior -- eating breakfast, reading a book, chatting with his servants, waiting for General McArthur to return, greeting his wife -- sequences that contain turning points. A surprisingly naive, yet resigned man faces up to his life, thus learning to really live in the end.
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