Third part in Aleksandr Sokurov's quadrilogy of Power, following Moloch (1999) and Taurus (2001), focuses on Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Japan's defeat in World War II when he is finally confronted by General Douglas MacArthur who offers him to accept a diplomatic defeat for survival.
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As Japan nears defeat at the end of World War II, Emperor Hirohito starts his day in a bunker underneath the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. A servant reads to him a list of activities for the day, including a meeting with his ministers, marine biology research, and writing his son. Hirohito muses about the impact on such schedules when the Americans arrive but is told that as long as there is a solitary Japanese person living, the Americans will not reach The Emperor. Hirohito replies that he at times feels like he himself will be the last Japanese person left alive. The servant reminds him that he is a deity, not a person, but Hirohito points out that he has a body just like any other man. He later reflects on the causes of the war when dictating observations about a hermit crab, and then about the peace to come when composing a letter to his son. Soon enough General Douglas MacArthur's personal car is sent to bring him through the ruins of Tokyo for a meeting with the supreme commander ...Written by
Aleksandr Sokurov kept the name of the actor playing the Emperor secret, since it is taboo in Japan to play an Emperor on film. Sokurov was afraid for the safety of the actor, after Nagisa Ôshima told him there had been two attempts on his life after he criticized Imperial Japan during WWII. See more »
I've waited 24 hours before reviewing The Sun in the hope that a day to reflect might produce some kind of insight into what I saw - unfortunately, that hasn't happened, so you're stuck with the same thoughts that I had yesterday.
If you're looking for some enlightenment into what goes through the mind of a god soon to be demoted to a mere mortal in the face of a crushing national defeat, you won't find much to help you out in The Sun. Unless you're one of those people who believes that those thoughts would have something to do with crabs.
So, what do you get in return for a ticket? The film itself is very dark - and by that I mean that there's very little light. Shot almost exclusively indoors with very little additional lighting the result is an effect that would be interesting in a single photograph, but becomes tiresome over the course of 110 minutes. Yes, it builds atmosphere, but it just became irritating to me.
Issei Ogata as Hirohito is very good, but his inability to keep his mouth closed and immobile when he's not speaking seems to be an embellishment too far (unless the real Hirohito actually did this). Most of the Japanese actors are excellent, in fact.
Robert Dawson as MacArthur is terrible - calling him wooden would be to slander actual wood.
The soundtrack is quite bizarre but, for the most part, works well to create a background tension which the script can't quite manage. If you've ever wondered what a segment of Wagner's Ring Cycle would sound like juxtaposed against the beat of a radio's heterodyne, this could be your film. Sometimes the only sound is the ticking of the clock - which is probably intentional again but ....
I realise that I'm not building a very good case for going to see this film, but the truth of the matter is that, as a whole, I found that I couldn't help myself from watching despite its flaws.
Watching this film is an interesting experience, but it will probably only appeal to you if you enjoy something that's quite challenging to sit through and you can forgive a script that ignores what could be interesting directions in favour of exploring the mundane.
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