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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

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 »

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

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

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User Reviews

 
Powerful anti-war statement, with a few false notes
9 December 2001 | by KFLSee all my reviews

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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