Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi

An expertly executed tense wartime drama

Apparently remaking historical, war-related dramas is de rigueur for well-known Japanese directors in the prime of their careers. Last edition, we looked at celebrated auteur Shinya Tsukamoto’s Nobi (Fires on the Plain), a remake of Kon Ichikawa’s work of the same name, and now we have the prolific filmmaker Masato Harada’s Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi. This film is a remake of Kihachi Okamoto’s 1967 film based on the eponymous book by historian Kazutoshi Handō.

In the waning days of WWII, the Japanese brass must decide whether to surrender or fight on despite a clearly hopeless situation. Emperor Showa (Masahiro Motoki) wants to accept the Potsdam Declaration’s surrender conditions to achieve peace, and Prime Minister Suzuki (Tsutomu Yamazaki) supports him. But the rest of the Cabinet is staunchly opposed, so much so that some junior officers are planning a coup.

War Minister Anami (Kōji Yakusho) wants to continue the resistance but slowly shifts to support the Emperor. This tense wartime drama is expertly executed. It circles around the crucial historical question of the Emperor, taking sidelong glances at it. But the last day of the war is the focus here, and Harada has sculpted a fine work. English title: The Emperor in August. (136 min)