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Jacob's Ladder (1990)
Adrian Lyne's, Jacob's Ladder, is the freakishly twisted tale of Vietnam war vet, Jacob Singer, who, after being ambushed in Viet Cong by an agent orange assault, returns to his home town in New York City only to suffer from extreme post-traumatic hallucinations. The hallucinations become increasingly bizarre as Jacob struggles to overcome the painful memories of his son (played by Macaulay Culkin) who was killed while he was in the war.
Lyne uses seemingly ordinary images to evoke the fear and sickness that Jacob suffers with, from vapid shower curtains and naked spines, to the grotesque slab of meat inside a refrigeratorall induce a sense of estrangement and insanity. Later he uses more horror-styled elements: coiled reptilian tails, saber-tooth's, convulsing heads built on paint bucket shakers, etc.
The nonlinear style cuts back and forth between Jacob's present life in NY and his former life in Viet Cong. At times, flashes of a later life (i.e. an afterlife) appear on screen that seem to foreshadow his inevitable fate. Jacob begins to see literal demons infiltrate his perceptual awareness, haunting and tearing at his soul, causing him to sink lower and lower into the depths of madness as he struggles to let go of his memories and embrace death. But are these demons real, or are they simply figments of his hallucinatory imagination? Along the way, he shares multiple conversations with his guardian angel chiropractor, Louis (Danny Aiello), who imparts very peculiar, almost preachy wisdom to Jacob to help him calm his hellish nightmares.
Quoting from Meister Eckhart (the master of Negative Theology), he says: "Eckhart saw Hell too; he said: 'the only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you,' he said. 'They're freeing your soul. So, if you're frightened of dying and and you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But if you've made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.'"
Most of the time, the viewer is unaware of where the story is headed. It's like an LSD trip gone seriously wrong and without that backup friend to soothe or provide remedy. It's also somewhat reminiscent of C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters," very self-aware of the macabre and forces you to ponder uncomfortable subjects. The film is one of my favorites, as it merges the gap between the two worlds we exist inthe dark one and the light onenot to forget exposes the two voices that exist inside us allthe devilish one and the angelic one. A must see for the spiritually intune!
A Self-indulgent Mess
The 1960's proved novel to international cinema. Specifically, Italian cinema became watershed. Those challenging and sober themes of post-war Neo-realism, though pervasive, began to travel down more expressionistic avenues. Besides peeking around doorjambs and tackling real social issues, a new style emerged, mirroring mental events that displayed subjective memories, imaginary scenes, fantasies and dreams. "Chimerical" was the best word to describe the time, with much respects to its hierarchical roots: German Expressionism.
Federico Fellini's "8 1/2" is one of the better examples that, in the true sense of the word, "exemplifies" the aforementioned but brief summary. The film, as Fellini describes, is "self-indulgent." It was not made for public fanfare or critic accolades, but was more of an iconoclastic push-in-the-face to media in general. The autobiographical story follows the crowded life of film director, Guido, who, in the midst of making a larger-than-life science fiction film, suffers from an existential crisis.
We travel through many surreal corridors, many of which are either incoherent or elusive, but all of which represent the psychology of Guido's memories/dreams as he painstakingly struggles to complete his film. In this aspect, the journey of a filmmaker actually making a film, despite its highly stylized qualities, is very realistic. The non-linearity and seemingly capricious juxtapositions of both Guido's film within Fellini's film mirror each other. In fact, Fellini uses Guido and his story as an extension of his own: two struggling filmmakers who seek to complete their masterpieces.
Although extremely challenging to the the viewer's patience, in retrospect the film can be very rewarding.
Peter Pan Motif
Martin Sheen & Sissy Spacek star in perhaps the most polarized American director of our generation, Terrence Malick (Thin Red Line, The New World). Either loved or hated, Badlands was Malick's first full-length, directorial debut that really broke the mold of first-time films of first-time directors: very informed by its time, completely understated, well-paced, intelligent, and above all, extremely quiet and contemplative. This atypical style would continue to pervade Malick's later pieces, which, given his 40 years in the business now, has amounted to only six total. That said, Malick has clearly been one of the more thoughtful directors around.
Badlands was released at the tail end of the Vietnam war and depicts certain guerrilla warfare tactics as personified through Malick's two main vehicles, Kit Carruthers & Holly Sargisa sort of insurrection resurrection of Bonnie and Clyde. Together, the two go on a crime spree, escape from urbanization and set off to live life in the wilderness. The story is said to mirror the classical tale of Peter Pan, and, conspicuously so. Holly's "Once upon a time " voice-over acts as the motherly Wendy figure throughout the film as she embarks upon a rebellious adventure in the lost wilderness with her equally lost and confused boyfriend, Kip.
Outside of the occasional murderous outbursts, the beautiful scenery yet bleak atmosphere is really what this film is all about. It's not my favorite Malick piece, but it is a worthy springboard that gave rise to his much more quietly epic masterpieces. And soon to be, with much anticipation, his newly Tree of Life is set to release in 2010. Can't wait!
The Hurt Locker (2008)
Best Film of '09
Despite the fact that I'm not a strong advocate of war films, let alone action films, I'd be lying if I didn't say this is the best film I've seen so far this year (and I highly doubt anything will compare to it). I went in with high hopes after reviewing the many critic/user accolades, absorbed the meaning of the opening statement presented as a fact"War is a drug"and came out feeling inebriated on the entire cinematic experience. Not only was the journey of watching the film terribly engaging, the aftermath reflection was equally as cathartic and tantalizing. It's as close as you can get to a near-perfect film: emotionally-driven, patriotic, contemplative, free from overt bias, adrenaline-based, strong acting, stronger characters, provocative theme, extremely well-paced, edgy and exhilarating. I strongly recommend it!
District 9 (2009)
Poignant Themes, Values, & Aesthetics
What critics are calling a "scathing social satire" in conjunction with what I will call a culturally well-informed platform, District 9 is an extremely intelligent vision that no doubt will spawn many intelligent conversations. The film surprisingly comes to us from first time director, Neill Blomkamp, who, despite his limited short-film repertoire, will most likely attract many eyes in future years.
Blomkamp gracefully employs a very raw, very visceral, docudrama style not much unlike the dust bowl feel of cinéma vérité. He takes it, however, several steps further by combining photorealistic CGI to gain the film's expressionistic quality, with shaky, hand-held documentary edges to expose more of its naturalistic elements. In this way, the film is uplifted with a highly chimerical imagination while simultaneously grounded in the grime of worldliness. Poetically speaking, it is both real and fake at the same time, or, as McKee puts it, it's a "fantasy-reality hybrid" of a film, which, in my view, makes the best of films. Also, as an added benefit, the form (though definitely not content) of the film was reminiscent of Tom Tykwer's Lola Rennt for those who deem themselves internationally savvy.
There's lots to consider in this one: xenophobic attitudes, government consolidation, immigration laws, unabridged intolerance, atoning foreign cultures and ideas, reconciling "separate but equal" amendments, scapegoating the many faces of otherness, the physics of entropy, war inebriation, evolutionary mutations, media manipulation, and the role reversals of friends and enemies to name a few. Though the film is not strictly immersed in philosophical thoughtindeed, much of the action-packed sequences resemble an astronomically greater version of Transformers meets Starship TroopersI will focus on a few of the film's subtextual philosophies that I found particularly timely.
Blomkamp plays the role of what I will call the "revelatory manipulator" quite flawlessly. He cleverly crafts the revelationthe drawing back of the curtain so to speakof information to the audience that forces them into an ironic, self-reflective state of mind. For instance, the film opens with viewers most likely on the side of the humans as they infiltrate the negatively perceived, alien project homes. No doubt to this media spun projection, viewers will identify with their own kind: humans as the good guys, aliens as the bad guys. If we aren't careful though, we fall easily into this trap and are later reminded of the danger of segregated, binary thinking.
Using the ancient Greek logos and pathos storytelling devices, Blomkamp works on the audiences sensitivities by evoking sympathy for the aliens, much of which I believe worked. The tables turn and it is the human participantsthose watching the filmwho slowly begin to side with the alien paradigm, despising now their own kind. Another way of saying this is that those who watch the film are confronted with their own ugliness and self-destructive behaviors. To grasp this, however, we must sacrifice our need to be right simply because we're human, focus on being kind, and look beyond the sci-fi alien spectacle. Ironically, we're just as much alien as is the flower to the rock (intelligence not included of course).
The use of the concept 'alien,' not as some Ridley Scott, galactic creature, but as that which is foreign, weird, strange or scary, pervades the story, allowing us to ponder upon our own aliens in the attic. Blomkamp exposes our human frailties in such a remarkable way, essentially showing us that we don't have to build walls of separation, let alone fear the strange, if only we would seek understanding via candid communication and welcome that which is alien with loving, forgiving hands. Much of the film is riddled with politically charged atoms and secret mysteries of the human condition, and I believe it will best serve the public by being thoroughly talked about immediately after watching.
Spread the word.
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
Impressive Non-linear Editing
Opening narration, "This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story." First impression: was the romantic comedy genre being toyed with?as if what I were about to see was a pseudo, unorthodox love story masked with conventional love story elements? My assumption was right and wrong in two separate contexts. First, the film's non-linear editing style reminded me of the gimmicks of "Memento"that is, would the story have been nearly as compelling were it not for its editing? Conversely, play the film in linear motion: would it fall to pieces? Editing has the most powerful effect on the viewer's cinematic experience next to acting. The editing of "500 Days," though thoroughly engaging, did not, however, make the film.
Renoir once said that editing is directing for the second time: it makes or breaks your experience. In the case of both films, I believe "Memento" would have bombed were it not for Dody Dorn, but "500 Days" would have still soared even with an exempted, non-linear style. The answer: the writing was too smart, even though Neustadter & Weber had to earn my respect. I anticipated something cheap and contrived (like the far too sophisticated, purely obnoxious and childish antics of "Juno"). I had to be converted, and slowly though, I was.
The juxtaposition of scenes strengthened the quality of the film. I loved the truthfulness of the characters: first identifying what he loves about Summer (cut with parts of her body), later slabbed against what he hates about her (again, cut with the same footage). It holds true to the platitude: familiarity breeds contempt. The editing also worked with the split screen "Reality vs. Expectation" sequence. The differences between both screens were subtle yet terribly sincere, terribly true. I laughed out loud several times. I enjoyed the active participation and socially savvy relationship pedestals the writers invited me to celebrate & mourn.
There was also a healthy blend of realism and fantasy as depicted through the expressionistic personification & musically emotive "after-sex" scene. Walking out of his apartment, everything is fresh and vibrant: smiles all around from on watchers. Suddenly it breaks out into song and dance and we're watching "Zippity Doo-Dah." It was fun! There were moments where the dialogue was cliché but the acting and conceptual vocation held by Gordon-Levitt made it worthy of endurance. Come to think of it, Levitt's on-screen career made some of the cliché dialogue wonderfully ironic and that much more compelling.
The editing style, again, brought us back & forth through the polar spectrum of emotions: "She loves me, She loves me not" syndrome. Frankly, Summer was young and happy-go-lucky; not focusing upon dating labels or destinations, but purely enjoying the ride at Levitt's expensevery obnoxious but true. I guess that's a reflection of my willingness to fully commit in relationships rather than play the part with all the benefits without the labels. Overall, the film worked. I won't be surprised if it's up for Academy Awards.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Jewish Fantasy Fulfilled?
The long anticipated, ultra-violent spaghetti western riddled with WWII iconography is Tarantino's homage to the alleged Jewish fantasy: sadistically bludgeoning the Arian, Nazi race. We follow two savage forcesthe Basterds and Shosannaeach who make separate attempts to destroy Hitler and his band of carnal cronies, thereby ending the war.
Made with reminiscent traces of The Great Escape & The Dirty Dozen, not to mention the peppered cruelty of Hostel or any other torturous Eli Roth picture, Inglourious Basterds is a marvelously skewed alternative to how WWII should have ended, rather than how it actually did end. When it was over, I sat in the theater feeling sterile. Fruit could not be produced.
In typical Tarantino form, the film was broken into five headlined chapters, was terribly verbose yet possessed witty dialogue on occasion, masked its bloody and grotesque content in beautiful aesthetics, flowered a pastiche of anachronistic musical melodies, and brought forth extremely rich & compelling character developmentsall of which were mesmerizing. Christoph Waltz, in particular, gave a truly haunting performance, the best Nazi portrayal I've ever seen and one in whom I hope wins multiple awards. Brad Pitt was just goofy, nothing special, but Waltz was downright sinistera manipulatively charismatic Nazi general who toyed with every character's (including the audience's) emotions. Every time he was present on screen, I felt fully secure in the holy moment, or rather the devilish moment.
Similar to the sword picture homage he gave in the Kill Bill series, I.B. reflects Tarantino's obscure reverence towards WWII and the cinema-going experience in general. The film in many instances reveals Tarantino's love of celluloid, as suggested through the multiple Noir, French New Wave, Neo-Realistic and Spaghetti Western nuances. The man has a pervasive education in film history and it greatly heightens the quality of his workthat much I give him. However, as much as the film was provocative and cutting-edge devilry, there was something deeply disturbing about it.
The audience, as I'm sure Tarantino intended, was laughing hysterically at all of the blood-spattered carnage displayed implacably before them: whether it was the scalping of Nazi's, the irrevocable and torturous image of Eli Roth bashing a Nazi's head to pieces, or the slitting of throats or machine-gun riddled faces. It was just sick, twisted. Even Tarantino seemed to get the last laugh via his femme fatale laughing head as she watched the theater hall filled with Nazis burn ironically proxy for the Jews. "Payback is a bitch," he seemed to subtextually scream.
Though I never laughed once, I was just as guilty as they were, for I well knew what I had paid to see. And when you pick up a snake asking it not to bite, you are denying the law of causation; you desire the identities of particular entities to disobey their innate natures and conform instead to your anarchic, destructive wishes. Well, in that sense, the film was a good social experiment. It taught a valuable principle of what it feels like to lose hope and faith in humanity, and as deputy, indulge in the "super-cool," pretty packaged pockets of sadism. I was hoping, though, that one of the characters would be redeemed, rather than have to sit through 2 ½ hours of the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" philosophy.
Live the Cosmic Wow Right Now
Our leadsman in Ikiru, Kanji Watanabe, is an older, exhaustive looking man caught up in the rat race of everyday, robotic living. Exuberance stripped, joy absent, utterly banal. It is only when he learns he's contracted an incurable stomach cancer that he begins to suffer from an existential crisis, plagued by frustration and the dread of approaching death. His language becomes almost ineffable, his soul harrowed up with an array of unwanted emotions, his memory elusive and soon to "vanish away." Realizing his life is near expired and with no significant contributions etched into the hallmark of the living, something inside him changes; the instinctive will "to live" overwhelms him. As the disenchanted novelist he meets puts it, "We don't realize how beautiful (or precious) life is until we chance upon death." The words resonate in Watanabe's mind. He seems to understand Sartre's credo, "Death must enter life only to define it." Suddenly, he fearfully and frantically yearns to define his life, overcome the petty existence he's wasted and atone for the quality of life and gratification he's lost, thus rendering death ineffectual. It is a message not only for Watanabe, but for all of humanityto live the cosmic wow right now without reserve or fear of death.
The difficulty Watanabe faces, however, is that the person he's shaped and ultimately become is without adequate faith and determination to face the future. Not only is he ill-prepared to be ordained with vitality, he is without dreams, goals and direction on where to foster his newborn energy to live. It would be likened unto a small child wanting to drive his father's brand new dodge viper yet without the necessary skill, maturity and knowledge needed to operate such a heavy piece of machinery. Watanabe is no different. He only knows that he desires a second chance at lifea life lived to its utmost potential. Clinging to this desire for positive self-transformation, he begins his newly awakened journey by touring the fleshpots of Tokyo, seeking joy through transient means: nightclubs, girls, liquor and other places of revelry. None of these places seem to bring about the type of life he's looking for. He moves on. He tries to make retirement arrangements with his much adorned son who ironically misperceives him. He fails.
He then endeavors to capture the secret to living life from his dainty female colleague who appears to have it all: zest, humor, vitality, etc. The secret, he discovers, is not grandiose but utterly simplisticshe enjoys making wind-up bunny rabbits for "the children of Japan." It's a timely message to understand because it shows that the great and grand secret to living life is found where most would have it not be found. There is no secret. According to the film's subtext, "to live" a life most fruitful is to be found in a collection of seemingly insignificant moments: laughter between two friends, a chocolate ice-cream cone, a gathering at the theater, the smile of a lover, etc. Watanabe, like all of us, is learning to extract the extraordinary from the ordinary. And slowly but surely, he is.
At the close of his journey, he turns his search for life's meaning to a civil service project buried deep under bureaucratic red tape, each member of his department having passed the buck from one office to the next. He personally takes it upon himself to see the project throughto turn a sewage gauntlet into an established play park for children. Though the end product isn't revolutionary, it is Watanabe's last chance for redeeming all of those years of self-absorption, self-loathing and regret. It is his last charitable contribution to life's hallmark academy, be it ever so small; that final part of his positive self-transformation. When he finally dies, the impact it makes parallels the proverb "our work is never appreciated until we are dead." Likewise, people are usually never venerated until they pass on. There is something deeply mystifying about death's impact on the human consciousness that causes it to understand not its own depth until the hour of separation. The film is remarkable in this way in that it creates a hoped for paradigm shift in the viewer, showing the precariousness and evanescence of life. Life, to be fully appreciated, must be threatened with death intermediately throughout and finally absorbed completely in the end. As the poet Tweedy observed, "You have to learn how to dieif you want to be alive." Kurosawa makes an astute commentary on the culture and values of bureaucracies, how we are all to some degree mini-bureaucrats caught up in the cyclical nature of zoning out, taking life for granted, and becoming programmed automatons who seek nothing but self-preservation and creature comforts. Life for Kurosawa is not to be lived by hiding in the seas of faces, hoping to be unobserved, but by making something of one's self, taking healthy risks, living Socrates' "life examined" and recognizing the small and simple things that make life worth defending. The secret to life is the recognition of the simple, the ordinary, the plain and mundane. It is that recognition that creates a sort of exuberance in the traveler's lifeone that follows in existentialist shadows and gains genuine and authentic meaning by one's active level of participation in it.
Central do Brasil (1998)
A Story of Two Strangers
Central Station is a touching story about two strangers from different walks of life who journey through the dustbowl of Rio de Janeiro to find that they have more in common with each other than they initially realized. Dora is an elderly, retired school teacher who's never been married and is jaded towards most people. She sort of has a Travis Bickle mentalitybelieves most people are "trash" and that it's her job to clean things up. She demonstrates this by refusing to mail the letters she writes for the illiterate populace of Brazil, saying that it would only "worsen" things if such people actually received these letters. Josue is an intuitive and sly 10-year old boy without a mother who's in search of his father who left him years ago. He sees right through Dora's depraved behavior and calls her out on it. Together, the two take a journey into the heart of Brazil in search of Josue's father.
The significance of their journey applies to the common bond between them. They both suffer from loss. Dora's loss is manifold: her lost opportunities to marry and have children, the loss of her feeling beautiful, the loss of her enthusiasm for life, etc. Josue's loss is two-fold: the loss of his mother after her accidental death, and the loss of his father, Jesus, who left him years ago. Succinctly put, both of them suffer from a loss of love. On their journey, both are able to play certain roles to help fill these voids in their life with love. Dora acts as a surrogate mother to Josue, takes him under her wing as she tries to help him find his father. Josue indirectly acts as the child Dora never had, allowing her an opportunity to break her selfish shell. Both, however, are reluctant and cynical towards each other at the beginning. Dora keeps trying to abandon the responsibility of caring for Josue (i.e. when she tries to leave him sleeping on the bus), while Josue keeps reprimanding Dora for not acting her age (i.e. when he scolds her for stealing food at the grocery mart). These sequences demonstrate the power of role-modeling. Both are indirectly guiding the other to find what they need most: care and love from each other. The film seems to suggest that Dora's never had a positive male influence in her life, nor does she feel beautiful enough to qualify for one. Consequently, what she needs most is a "real man" who will help her out of the Scrooge-like cave she's created for herself.
Without money and without a travel ticket, Dora's poor example leads Josue to lose hope in any caretaker. The specific moment of change that converts Dora to start really caring for Josue (rather than treating him as heavy baggage) is when he runs away from her through the crowded, religious chanting streets of the Brazilian countryside. This scene is ironic: Josue runs away to find his father, Jesus, the crowd of people pray to God with hopes to be redeemed through Jesus, and Dora needs the love/reassurance of a Jesus-figure in her life but doesn't realize it. The swirling camera movements used as she roams through the sacred room of burning candles and crucifix's suggests what's taking place inside her mindshe's losing control of her life as she has lost control of Josue. It's as if the unsteady camera movements act as the pangs of her racked conscience, causing her to realize her poor role-modeling qualities. When she recovers, she wakes up in the arms of Josue outsidetheir relationship has grown for the better (Josue realizing he's loved, and Dora realizing she has to love).
The theme of the film says a lot about how we project certain images upon people when we're younger, only later to realize how false those images are when we grow older. For example, Josue believes his father is really a good-spirited man who loves his children. However, all the rumors told about his father say the opposite: that he's a drunkard; a no good beggar who sold his life for hedonistic pleasures when the going got tough. I think this idea also compliments how God is viewed in this film. During the chanting scene in the countryside, groups of suffering people gather together to pray for release from their pain, but it seems to be futilethey are not released from pain. It seems, then, that the film is making some type of commentary on what happens when the father's in our livesbe they mortal or divineleave people on their own without care.
Yuki Yukite shingun (1987)
Devotion to Truth
From the mere title alone, The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On is the true-life documentary of obsessive, army-in-one war veteran, Kenzo Okuzaki, and his march to unclothe the truth of certain events during World War II. Okuzaki is a severely committed, subservient, even violent disciple of truth. Thirty years after the war and having been in and out of prison, he travels great lengths to reveal the facts and hold responsible the men who unlawfully executed several soldiers in the regiment he served in during the war. With the victims parent's at his side, he travels to the homes of ex-military leaders who he believes are responsible for the deaths of innocent soldiers, essentially corners and interrogates them, tries to get them to fess up and take responsibility for their misdeeds, and resorts to violence when they refuse to apologize or speak.
In several scenes, Okuzaki is seen beating up elderly war veterans like himself, trying to squeeze the truth out of their reluctant, scared, and emaciated minds. He basically acts as a sort of pseudo-God. He's on "God's errand" to punish the wicked by either inflicting guilt upon their consciences, or using physical force to stir them up to repentance. In the true sense of the word, his tactics are amazing to watch, yet very disturbing. Though I do not fully agree with his tactics, I couldn't help but admire how dedicated and faithful he was in revealing the "truth" and serving what he believed was justice. He really believed in what he was doing, even if it made him appear like some religious zealot inebriated on fanaticism. However, his devotion to truth causes him to contradict himself. When the parents of one of the victims refuse to embark with Okuzaki on his journey to discover the truth about their son, Okuzaki finds pseudo-parents who act as the victim's son, yet are lying in order to emotionally stir up the military leaders (or 'pretending' if you want to give it a euphemism). It's ironic, then, that Okuzaki is the so-called orator, defender of truth just as long as you play by his rules. After all, he feels privileged to bend the rules, even to the extent of using violence or lying tactics if it means acquiring the truth from others. In essence, he's his own God.
At one point in the film, Okuzaki declares that violence is only good if it leads to a greater end. The end that Okuzaki desired was for war to never perpetuate again into the future. Thus, by using violence to get others to reveal the truth of their sins, he believed that wars would terminate, people would remember the past, and violence would be abolished. It seems a bit contradictory though: does violence stop violence? I'm torn on this issue. On one hand I look at what violence has done throughout history, and no matter how hard we try, violence has not ended violence, but has begot it. Perhaps we need to take a more Gandhian approach and use kindness to inflict hot coals upon wicked minds. On the other hand, I think of my religious convictions: If there is a God who doesn't intend for his children to behave violently, is there such a thing as Godly violence? Justified warfare? According to scriptural texts, there is: Deuteronomy 20, Section 98, 1Nephi 4. Yet to have God's stamp of approval, or better yet, commandment, to take or physically abuse another human life seems a burden I wish to never have thrust upon me. Was Okuzaki right for behaving the way he did? I can answer yes or no. Yes, that God sometimes uses the wicked to scourge the righteous up to repentance, as well as using the wicked to destroy the wicked. No, that I know God doesn't want me to behave that way.
To speak of war presupposes that violence is involved. War is violence (and vice versa). The film tries to be as objective as possible in showing the aftermath of what war does to people. It leads them to hell/prison. Okuzaki is on a mission to send unrighteous people to hell, uncaring of the negative consequences it may have upon himself. He demonstrated this courage when attacking the Emperor with a sling for denying responsibility of the murdered soldiers. The film ends the same way it started: Okuzaki has been released from prison only to find himself back in prison. The interesting point is that he always takes full responsibility for his actions, unlike those around him. He even full-heartedly admits at the beginning that he intends to go back to prison after inflicting "justice" upon the war-criminals. That he takes this responsibility is proof that people sentence themselves to their own private, hellish prisons, whether they admit to it or not.