Director: Shin’ya Tsukamoto
Writer: Shin’ya Tsukamoto
Based on: Shohei Ooka‘s novel
Cast: Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Rirî Furankî, Tatsuya Nakamura, Yûko Nakamura, Dean Newcombe
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 22.9.2015
[Reviews by cornholio and Maynard.]
World War 2 is coming to an end. But those last days of the war don’t mean a sudden end to horrors. And so a Japanese soldier (Shin’ya Tsukamoto) wanders through the Philippines. Does he have a mission anymore? Who cares when he has to give everything simply not to starve. The only interruption of his desolation happens when violence and bruality breaks out again.
Before the film, the festival director read us a letter from Tsukamoto. He was unable to attend the screening himself, but he thought it important to stress what a personal quest Fires on the Plain has been for him and in the end how close the film is to his heart. I think that heart’s blood that went into the film is very noticeable, but nevertheless the film failed to work for me.
Fires on the Plain is not the first impressionistic movie aboutt he horrors of war with stunning imagery that I’ve come across (obligatory reference to The Thin Red Line), but so far I didn’t get into any of them. I can imagine that Fires on the Plain can be a hypnotic experience when you manage to get into the pace and the rhythm of the film, but I never found an in, meaning that I remained at a distance of the characters, the atrocities shown and the film itself.
There is a lot in the film that makes it worth to look at – from its portrayal of hunger, insanity and violence to its mirroring of the pointlessness of fighting a war, especially when it’s already lost, in the aimless wanderings of its protagonists.
But to me it’s most striking feature was how absolutely boring it was. I even fell asleep for a bit inbetween (despite it being the first movie of the day), which is certainly not the reaction I want to have when I watch a film as gruesome as this one that is all about cruelties.
I still think that it is an important film covering an important topic. But that is a purely rational thought because I was so removed from what happened on screen that the film never had an emotional impact. And that just feels like a wasted opportunity.