Arlecchino Cinema > 09:00


Kon Ichikawa


Wednesday 28/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Myanmar, 1945. At the end of the war, a platoon of Japanese soldiers surrenders to the enemy and is interned in an Anglo-Indian prisoner-of-war camp.
Mizushima, one of the soldiers in the platoon, volunteers to participate in a mission to reach a Japanese military post… All attempts to persuade them to give up prove vain and Mizushima is gravely wounded in the subsequent massacre. His comrades believe he is dead, but he actually survives thanks to the ministration of a Buddhist priest. Now conscious of the horrors of war and having also become a monk, Mizushima decides not to re-join his fellow soldiers as they return to their homeland…
Carefully constructed around its protagonist, Biruma no tategoto, the first of Kon Ichikawa’s films to be known in the west, is an attempt to represent the essential human condition when facing the horrors of war. The film juxtaposes the character of Mizushima both with the soldiers who refuse to surrender, and those who return home. The film condemns the values and principles of the former (such as loyalty to the emperor and the belief in his divinity), which no longer have a reason to exist, if they ever did, but it also admonishes the second for the ease with which they forget the horrors of war to return to a life that appears to have simply forgotten the past. The meaning of Mizushima’s choice, his mission of compassion and his desire not to forget, is conveyed above all in the long letter he writes to Captain Inoue and that the latter subsequently reads to his own men while they are returning home by ship. In this way, the film reveals its pedagogic intent – shared with the novel on which it is based, which is widely read in Japan, above all in schools – confirming its status as an anti-war manifesto, which made it famous around the world in the 1950s…
The contemplative nature of the film, which is composed of long takes that dwell on the horrors of war and black-and-white cinematography that alternates shafts of light with moments of obscure shadow, also finds expression in the silence that frequently accompanies its most horrific images… In 1985, Ichikawa made a colour remake under the same title, Biruma no tategoto.

Dario Tomasi, in Enciclopedia del cinema. Dizionario critico dei film, Treccani, Rome 2004

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal racconto omonimo (1948) di Michio Takeyama. Scen.: Natto Wada. F.: Minoru Yokoyama. M.: Masanori Tsujii. Scgf.: Takashi Matsuyama. Mus.: Akira Ifukube. Int.: Shoji Yasui (Mizushima), Rentaro Mikuni (capitano Inoue), Tatsuya Miyashi (comandante della fortezza), Yunosuke Ito (capo villaggio), Taketoshi Naito (Kobayashi), Jun Hamamura (Ito), Shunji Kasuga (Maki), Akira Nishimura (Baba), Hiroshi Tsuchikata (Okada), Tanie Kitabayashi (la vecchietta). Prod.: Masayuki Takaki. DCP. D.: 116’. Bn.