Dogmatic historical film has impressive production values
Religious figures have always been tough to depict on film. Either you inadvertently insult followers or you create something to please the followers. There seems to be no middle ground. Look at the films created by Scorsese and Gibson about the same subject. Regardless Nichiren is an interesting film if just to see two future superstars of Japanese cinema at work.
During the 1200's, legendary Buddhist monk Nichiren (Shintaro Katsu) returns from his studies to lead Japan out of moral crisis and prepare to fight Mongol invaders by creating a new form of Buddhism. He runs afoul of the existing Buddhist sects and their government supporters and is persecuted. Can Nichiren persevere before the Mogol fleet reaches Japanese shores?
The first question for me was if the film was going to be stiff and stagey. The answer is yes, but in an enjoyable way. The production is excellent and typical of the 1950's Japanese cinema. Well directed. Katsu is ernest but very hammy in a thankless role. How do you portray a real man who is implied as having powers over lightening and typhoons? Raizo Ichikawa portrays a young deputy Shogun but he never really gets to act in anything but a sitting position. The film has a number of melodramatic moments and also departs from the historical record. While depicting Nichiren's unrelenting dismissal of all other Buddhist sects, the film skips some other controversial aspects of his beliefs. The special effects are excellent with some great ship miniatures.
Once again we have a religious film preaching peace but manages to include lots of bloodshed and death. An interesting film for many reasons but I can't recommend it to an average viewer.
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