The true history of Japanese Unit 731, from its beginnings in the 1930s to its demise in 1945, and the subsequent trials in Khabarovsk, USSR, of many of the Japanese doctors from Unit 731. ...
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In the spring of 1945, Japan established a secret base, Unit 731 in Manchuria, where many innocent Chinese, Korean and Mongolian people were killed in grotesque experiments. An idealistic ... See full summary »
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The true history of Japanese Unit 731, from its beginnings in the 1930s to its demise in 1945, and the subsequent trials in Khabarovsk, USSR, of many of the Japanese doctors from Unit 731. The facts are told, and previously unknown evidence is revealed by an eyewitness to these events, former doctor and military translator, Anatoly Protasov. Part documentary and part feature, the story is shown from the perspective of a young Japanese nurse who witnessed many of horrors, and a young Japanese officer who is torn between his sincere convictions that he is serving the greater purpose, and the deep sympathy he feels for an imprisoned Russian girl. His life is a living hell as he's compelled to carry out atrocious experiments on the other prisoners, using them as guinea pigs in this shocking tale of mankind's barbarity. "Philosophy of a Knife" is truly one of the most violent, brutal and harrowing movies ever made. Written by
Major disappointment, a freak show disguised as an art film
This movie is four hours long for one reason: director Andrey Iskanov wanted it to be. Lacking enough actual subject matter to warrant a four hour running time, he compensates by having virtually every scene go on for at least twice as long as necessary and inserting numerous shots of snow falling, each of which goes on for several minutes. I would say there's close to a half hour of footage of snow in this movie.
We get surgeons meticulously putting on rubber gloves, prisoners being led down hallways, soldiers trudging through snow, bodies being chopped up, flesh being scraped off a skull, and countless other such sequences all in glorious real time. If tedium and banality are what Iskanov was going for he succeeded admirably.
PHILOSOPHY OF A KNIFE is so devoid of any redeeming quality in its current state it barely even warrants discussion. One of the few positive things I can say about it is that I can see a riveting avant-garde horror movie hidden beneath all the baggage. Had he cut out 2/3 of the running time and tightened up all of his individual scenes, this could have been one of the most effective exercises in Hell-On-Earth sensory overload.
Of course, in an introduction which brings new meaning to the word "pontification," Iskanov informs us that this is not a horror movie, though he expects us unsophisticated westerners to think it is. So maybe I'm even wrong about that. Maybe there's NOTHING good to say about this movie.
Watching this movie has forced me to re-assess my opinion of MEN BEHIND THE SUN, which I thought was little more than an exploitive freak show as well. However, in MEN BEHIND THE SUN director T.F. Mou presented the atrocities in a brutally matter-of-fact manner and allowed us to sympathize somewhat with the prisoners. Now I'm thinking that Mou's film is at least somewhat earnest in its depictions of the horrors of Unit 731.
In PHILOSOPHY, Iskanov re-creates the experiments as highly stylized set-pieces that look more like a Nine Inch Nails music video than an attempt to hit home the true horror of these activities. All (and I mean ALL) the prisoners who are tortured are young, good-looking Russian kids with no backstory whatsoever. I wonder how many female prisoners-of-war during World War II had perfect breasts and shaved pubic hair. And while MEN BEHIND THE SUN acknowledged that Russian, European and American prisoners did fall victim to Unit 731, PHILOSOPHY completely ignores the fact that the vast majority of victims were Chinese.
And if what you want is nothing more than blood and guts, even that fails to live up to the hype. The effects (which Iskanov did himself) are amateurish and sloppy. Only a sequence in which a woman's teeth are pulled is even somewhat effective, not because it's well-done, but because pretty much everyone can imagine how much that would hurt. OLDBOY's teeth pulling scene is far more chilling and horrific than this.
This long, boring, dishonest, self-indulgent movie is a major waste of time. I want my four plus hours back.
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