In 1959, legendary Japanese director Kon Ichikawa released Nobi (Fires on the Plain) and garnered a slew of awards domestically, as well as taking top prize at the Locarno Film Festival. The stridently anti-war piece was controversial, but it’s now considered one of the auteur’s all-time gems.
Why then would iconoclast filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto choose to do a remake? Well, the fiercely independent Tsukamoto (known for Tetsuo: The Iron Man, 1989) has always taken an unusual route, and it’s fairly easy to argue Japan is in need of anti-war statements now more than ever.
Adapted from Shohei Ōoka’s 1951 novel of the same name, the WWII story follows a private named Tamura (Tsukamoto) who is trapped in the wilderness of the Philippine jungle. Suffering from tuberculosis, his commanding officer and a field hospital refuse to allow him to stay, so he must scavenge for food and attempt to survive.
Tsukamoto alternates gore and nauseating shots with beautiful landscapes and lighting to highlight the soldiers’ misery. Though brutal and at times hard to watch, Tsukamoto admirably communicates the anti-war content of the originals. Only for those with a strong stomach. English title: Fires on the Plain. (87 min)
English subtitles are available at Shibuya Eurospace’s 7-pm screenings and at Tachikawa Cinema City through Aug 1-4. For other theatres offering English subtitles, visit http://nobi-movie.com