Friday, January 16, 2015

Film Capsule: Kon Ichikawa's Fires on the Plain (1959)

Fires on the Plain (1959)
Directed by Kon Ichikawa

This harrowing antiwar film, released just as its director was reaching the height of his international renown, follows tubercular WWII Japanese soldier Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi), dismissed by his company and encouraged to commit suicide as a result of his illness, across a scorched-earth landscape of rotting corpses and cannibalistic infantrymen. Adapted by Ichikawa’s wife, Natto Wada, from a novel by Shōhei Ōoka, and without determent from any of the author’s more gruesome vignettes, Tamura’s tale of survival turns hallucinatory as he marches toward an ambiguous horizon line where the hunger for both survival and spiritual sanctification become inexorably entwined. Shooting in high-contrast black-and-white and with steely reserve reflective of both character and shooting conditions alike, Ichikawa manages to engender a sense of intimacy even as his vision of hell on earth builds to seemingly irreconcilable ends. (Jan 19, 1pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center as part of the New York Jewish Film Festival‘s “War Against War” sidebar) [The L]

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