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The Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1959)

Ningen no jôken (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama , War | 14 December 1959 (USA)
A Japanese pacifist, unable to face the dire consequences of conscientious objection, is transformed by his attempts to compromise with the demands of war-time Japan.

Director:

Masaki Kobayashi

Writers:

Zenzô Matsuyama (screenplay), Masaki Kobayashi (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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5 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tatsuya Nakadai ... Kaji
Michiyo Aratama ... Michiko
Chikage Awashima Chikage Awashima ... Tôfuku Kin
Ineko Arima ... Shunran Yô
Keiji Sada ... Kageyama
Sô Yamamura ... Okishima
Akira Ishihama Akira Ishihama ... Chin
Kôji Nanbara Kôji Nanbara ... (as Shinji Nanbara)
Seiji Miyaguchi Seiji Miyaguchi ... Kyôritsu Ô
Tôru Abe Tôru Abe ... Watarai Gunsô
Masao Mishima Masao Mishima ... Kuroki Shochô
Eitarô Ozawa Eitarô Ozawa ... Okazaki
Kôji Mitsui ... Furuya
Akitake Kôno Akitake Kôno ... Kôno Taii
Nobuo Nakamura Nobuo Nakamura ... Honsha Buchô
Edit

Storyline

In the World War II, the pacifist and humanist Japanese Kaji accepts to travel with his wife Michiko to the tiny Manchurian village Loh Hu Liong to work as supervisor in an iron ore mine to avoid to be summoned to the military service. Kaji works with Okishima (Sô Yamamura) and he implements a better treatment to the laborers and improves the mine production. When the feared Kempetai (The "Military Police Corps", the military police arm of the Imperial Japanese Army from 1881 to 1945) brings six hundred Chinese POWs to the mine, Kaji negotiates with their leaders expecting them to control their comrades. However the methods of Kaji upset the corrupt system in the site, and the foreman Furuya (Kôji Mitsui) plots a scheme to use the naive Chen (Akira Ishihama) to turn off the electrical power of the barbwire fences to allow the prisoners to escape. When seven prisoners are falsely accused of an attempt of fleeing, a cruel Kempetai sergeant uses his sword to behead the prisoners. When ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

1940s | japanese | pow | chinese | ore mine | See All (39) »

Taglines:

An extraordinary picture of man's fate and man's hope...

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

Japan

Language:

Japanese | Mandarin

Release Date:

14 December 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Human Condition I: No Greater Love See more »

Filming Locations:

Hokkaido, Japan See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Ninjin Club,Shôchiku Eiga See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In this film, the character of Okishima, one of the foremen of a Japanese mining camp in Manchuria during World War II, serves as a kind of mentor to the hero, Kaji, who works as a supervisor at the camp. For guidance and advice during filming, the actor who played Kaji, Tatsuya Nakadai (who had never before been cast in the leading role in a film), turned to the more seasoned actor who portrayed Okishima, Sô Yamamura, and they became close friends. Thus, the real-life relationship of Nakadai and Yamamura mirrored that of their on-screen characters. See more »

Goofs

At one point a Japanese guard begins to whip Kao, yet the motions he makes are just a flailing of his arms, visibly missing the actor. Kao retaliates by throwing a rock at the guard, but the rock never strikes the guard. However, the actor playing the guard overreacts as if he has been struck. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Michiko: This isn't like you.
Kaji: Why?
Michiko: You're running away. Don't you want me?
Kaji: Of course I do.
Michiko: And I want you, too. Yet we can't marry-...
Kaji: How many times must I explain?
Michiko: Because you might be called up? I wouldn't care if it was the day after. Of course I'd cry. I'd cry bitterly. But happiness only lies in marrying the one you love.
Kaji: Alright. I'll take you back to my dormitory. You'll stay with me tonight. Alright?
Michiko: Yes, I'll go.
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Nihon eiga no hyaku nen (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

The struggle for humanity in an inhuman environment
14 April 2003 | by FADrurySee all my reviews

An interesting film that portrays the struggles of an idealistic young Japanese man who is challenged to employ his idealism in the service of the Japanese war effort in WW II. A key aspect of this struggle is the protagonist's struggle within himself. Kaji, the young man, seeks to humanize the brutal conditions at a mining operation in Manchuria. Further complicating matters is the profound sense of national prejudice that shapes the relationships between the various characters. To the workers & Chinese prisoners, regardless of his professed ideals, Kaji is Japanese and therefore an oppressor. Although Kaji tries to win their trust, his own frustration enables him to strike a young Chinese helper, reinforcing the image of the brutal Japanese. This weakness is a key underlying theme. Even late in the film, when he takes a very brave stand against some executions, his effort is a bit late and his stand is successful only when the Chinese prisoners take up the protest. He struggles because her fears he cannot live up to the ideals he expresses.

Kaji is also confronted with the another irony. Although he opposes the war, he has chosen a route of avoidance rather than resistance. This is emphasized early in the film during an evening with a friend who is about to be inducted. His friend comments that, although they opposed the war, neither of them was brave enough to face the penalty for resistance of life imprisonment. Shortly thereafter, he takes the mine job to get a military exemption. Yet, if he is successful, the production improvements in the mine only fuel the Japanese war machine.

A valuable film because it explores areas of the pacific war that are not well know in the west. Also an interesting observation in the danger of half-measures when taking a moral stance. Kaji is ultimately confronted with the fact that you cannot avoid the war, only oppose it or aid it. I look forward to viewing the next film.


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