The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord. The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back.
An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
A love triangle develops between a benevolent student, his innocent girlfriend, and a cruel petty criminal, all as a point of diagnosis of a social disease that had Japan slowly succumbing to lawlessness during the post-War era.
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
A significant theme of Masaki Kobayashi's "Human Condition" trilogy is the obsessive love, bordering on worship, of the protagonist, Kaji, for his wife, Michiko, played in all three parts by Michiyo Aratama. Film director Masahiro Shinoda attributes the prominence of this theme to the impact upon Kobayashi's generation of the legendary French filmmakers of the 1930s, with their preoccupation with romantic love. However, according to Shinoda, this romantic idealization of the heroine was, for his own more cynical generation of Japanese film fans, a major stumbling block to their appreciation of the film. It was only later that Shinoda decided that he had no right to question Kobayashi's commitment to a feminine ideal, and accepted this aspect of the work as artistically valid. See more »
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 »
This isn't like you.
You're running away. Don't you want me?
Of course I do.
And I want you, too. Yet we can't marry-...
How many times must I explain?
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.
Alright. I'll take you back to my dormitory. You'll stay with me tonight. Alright?
Yes, I'll go.
[...] See more »
Powerful anti-war statement, with a few false notes
This film was hugely popular when it came out around 1960, reflecting the fiercely anti-war sentiment of the Japanese at the time. I have read that for a time when it came out, all three parts of The Human Condition (totaling nine and one-half hours) were shown in a single sitting at theaters in northern Tokyo, starting around 10 pm and ending in time for people to catch the trains home the next morning.
While it is a powerful film which portrays much of the suffering and brutality visited on the Chinese in Manchuria by the Japanese war machine, it is not without some rather unlikely plot twists. In particular, Kaji seems somewhat too saint-like to be believable.
It is worth mentioning that the title "The Human Condition" is perhaps misleading. The Japanese word "jouken" corresponding to "condition" is not normally used in a descriptive sense, but rather, as a condition to be fulfilled or satisfied. Thus the title might be better rendered "The Conditions for Being Human"--the implication being that in wartime, the conditions for remaining fully human are elusive at best.
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