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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.

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(screenplay), (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:
...
...
Chikage Awashima ...
...
Shunran Yô
...
Kageyama
...
Akira Ishihama ...
Chin
Kôji Nanbara ...
(as Shinji Nanbara)
Seiji Miyaguchi ...
Tôru Abe ...
Watarai Gunsô
Masao Mishima ...
Eitarô Ozawa ...
...
Furuya
Akitake Kôno ...
Kôno Taii
Nobuo Nakamura ...
Honsha Buchô
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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

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

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

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Details

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Release Date:

14 December 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Human Condition I: No Greater Love  »

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although the original six-volume novel by Jumpei Gomikawa upon which the trilogy was based had been a bestseller in Japan, no film studio wanted to have anything to do with this material. The reasons for this were perfectly understandable: the novel's extreme length was unwieldy, its subject matter was relentlessly grim, and the narrative brought up the very touchy topic of crimes committed by the Japanese military during the Second World War. However, director Masaki Kobayashi was so adamant in his desire to make the film that he threatened to quit his film studio, Shochiku, if they refused to finance the project, and they relented. The trilogy went on to become a major critical and commercial success in Japan. 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.
[...]
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Connections

Followed by The Human Condition II: Road to Eternity (1959) See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the greatest anti-war movies of all time
17 May 2008 | by See all my reviews

Kobayashi's "The Human Condition" is one of a handful of great anti-war movies. While Japanese film has confronted its own crimes of war more than other cinema, I am only familiar with one other Japanese movie which deals directly with the war & the plight of conscientious objectors: Kurosawa's "No Regrets for Our Youth". Many films deal with the futility of war: "Seven Samurai" & "Yojimbo" come immediately to mind. But "Human Condition" takes on the enormity of war, & the means by which everyone becomes complicit in its total corruption. The hero, though a Conscientious Objector, becomes a colonial occupier, an exploiter of slave labor, an employer of a madam who runs a camp of women & girls impressed into prostitution, & generally runs the gamut of crimes against humanity while trying to maintain his virtue & love's beauty.

Parts II & III also explore the brutality of the army toward its own soldiers, & the complete desecration of the ideals of the Russian Revolution & the cruelty of ordinary Chinese villagers.

"The Human Condition" should be ranked with "Grand Illusion", though what could be as lyrical as the Renoir film? If only this were require viewing in all military academies. If only it were required viewing for all lawmakers & the executive. Is that asking too much?


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