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The Human Condition (The Criterion Collection) (1961)

Tatsuya Nakadai , Michiyo Aratama , Masaki Kobayashi  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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The Human Condition (The Criterion Collection) + Eclipse Series 38: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System (The Thick-Walled Room, I Will Buy You, Black River, The Inheritance) (Criterion Collection)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, Kokinji Katsura, Jun Tatara, Michir˘ Minami
  • Directors: Masaki Kobayashi
  • Writers: Masaki Kobayashi, Jumpei Gomikawa, K˘ichi Inagaki, Zenz˘ Matsuyama
  • Producers: Masaki Kobayashi, Shigeru Wakatsuki
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: September 8, 2009
  • Run Time: 574 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0026VBOJM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,777 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Human Condition (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer
Excerpt from a rare Directors Guild of Japan video interview with director Masaki Kobayashi, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda (Double Suicide)
New video interview with actor Tatsuya Nakadai
Video appreciation of Kobayashi and The Human Condition featuring Shinoda
Japanese theatrical trailers
New and improved English subtitle translation
A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp

Editorial Reviews

Masaki Kobayashi’s mammoth humanist drama is one of the most staggering achievements of Japanese cinema. Originally filmed and released in three parts, the nine-and-a-half-hour The Human Condition (Ningen no joken), adapted from Junpei Gomikawa’s six-volume novel, tells of the journey of the well-intentioned yet naive Kaji (handsome Japanese superstar Tatsuya Nakadai) from labor camp supervisor to Imperial Army soldier to Soviet POW. Constantly trying to rise above a corrupt system, Kaji time and again finds his morals an impediment rather than an advantage. A raw indictment of its nation’s wartime mentality as well as a personal existential tragedy, Kobayashi’s riveting, gorgeously filmed epic is novelistic cinema at its best.

Stills from The Human Condition (Click for larger image)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
75 of 75 people found the following review helpful
Masaki Kobayashi, the acclaimed director of Japanese classics such as "HARA-KIRI" and "Samurai Rebellion" has always made a powerful stance against established authority. He made a scathing indictment of the "Code of Bushido" and criticized the way samurai clans have treated its retainers and their families. Kobayashi's "THE HUMAN CONDITION" is his fearless indictment of the war itself that criticizes established authority. Based on the novel by Jumpei Gomikawa, this film trilogy is arguably Kobayashi's finest films, its strong existential themes, the manner of which it exposes the aspects of good and evil, and the thin line between morality and immorality is truly masterful. The trilogy focuses on the exploits of Kaji during World War II. Kaji's development as a man, as a husband, as a soldier, and later as a prisoner of war is brought to exposition by Masaki Kobayashi.

Disc One: "No Greater Love" (1959)
Kaji (Tatasuya Nakadai) is a young man who is a pacifist and a socialist. He marries his sweetheart Michiko (Michiyo Aratama) despite the uncertainties in the future. Kaji agrees to work as a mining supervisor in an iron and ore mining site in Japanese-occupied Manchuria to avoid getting drafted to fight a war he doesn't believe in. Kaji becomes partly successful in reforming the working conditions in the mining site, although his ideas are often contested by his superiors. Things become more complicated when Chinese prisoners of war are forced upon the site by the Kempeitai (military police) to use as laborers. Kaji tries but fails to reconcile his humanistic theories with the realities of forced slave labor under Japan's Imperial system.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be Prepared to be Shattered May 18, 2009
How should an individual respond to deep-set social injustices - ones that are built into the structure of the country's national morality. This is the core of Kaji's story (performed by the brilliant Tatsuya Nakadai). This epic trilogy is a biography of a man, a dissenter, a nation. During the critical years 1930's to 1940's, Japanese aggression was founded on radical nationalism, a policy which expected everything in its path to bend or break. The director films the cruelty of Japanese and Russian authority with unflinching honesty. As is always true of this director...he is an absolute master of cinematography in the brilliant way we think Akira Kurusowa is a master of the same art. As an example, after one of the Chinese slave laborers is brutally beaten to death, the group of laborers complain to Kaji - accusing him of being just like the other insensitive Japanese. The crowd of prisoners and Kaji are separated by an electric barbed wire. Then suddenly - through the barbed wire - the prisoners view 30 comfort women approaching to service them sexually...almost as a mirage...and the complaint against Kaji drips away. It is a deeply powerful image - a form of cinema poetry and a form of cinema realism.

In the first installment of this extraordinary trilogy, Kaji is sent to be an overseer of a Japanese slave labor camp in Manchuria. At this time, the Japanese are using Chinese men or unlucky POW's for mining operations under inhuman, horrific conditions. Appalled by the viciousness, Kaji proposes reforms and basic human rights for the prisoners...but in doing so he is considered an obstacle to the Japanese War effort and so the idealist is next sent into the military.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The INHUMAN Condition February 25, 2010
If you are still unpersuaded of "Man's Inhumanity to Man", you probably should watch this epic film. If you personally have trouble acknowledging guilt, and especially if you have trouble acknowledging societal guilt -- that is, your unescapable personal responsibility for the actions of your society -- you must watch this film. On the other hand, if you are Chinese, you perhaps ought to avoid this film; it is a soul-rending confession of the hideous cruelty practiced in forced labor camps. It will be too painful to watch, and it might well inflame resentments that would better be put on ice.

The Human Condition is beautifully photographed in black-and-white, every frame a calligraphic composition; beautifully acted by Nakadai Tatsuyo and a cast of familiar faces from the great age of samurai films, familiar yet completely 'in character' in this film; beautifully scripted ... and extremely long, 4 DVDs worth of bleak landscape, violence, and anguish.

Did it need to be so long? Director Kobayashi Masaki must have thought so; he worked on this film for four years, and his other supreme cinema masterpiece - Harakiri - demonstrates his mastery of terse editing and compaction of drama. Though it has 'chapter' titles, The Human Condition is NOT a series of episodes; it develops thoroughly and coherently as a single story. Critics have suggested that the central character, a young Japanese intellectual who resists the inhuman behaviors of his countrymen, is at least partially a self-depiction by Kobayashi, who was compelled to serve in the Japanese army in WW2 but who refused to rise above the lowest rank, in daring protest against the military warlords.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An allegory for our condition--The Human Condition I: No Greater Love
The British film critic David Shipman described The Human Condition - Masaki Kobayashi's 9.5 hour epic - as "unquestionably the greatest film ever made. Read more
Published 20 months ago by James West
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the most powerful film of all time
It's hard to do the "The Human Condition" justice in a brief review, other than to say that you should watch this trilogy. Read more
Published on October 6, 2012 by Maybe
5.0 out of 5 stars A movie that lives up to it's name!
Follow Kaji, a Japanese humanist, pacifist, and socialist, who is forced to live in a state of constant contradiction as a labor camp supervisor, then a soldier, and finally, as a... Read more
Published on February 12, 2012 by Fast Food Blogger
5.0 out of 5 stars Towering Achievement
The Human Condition is excellent. It might be redundant to mention but the movie is over 9 hours long. Don't let that daunt you. Read more
Published on December 4, 2011 by Paul
4.0 out of 5 stars Pt I: NO GREATER LOVE
Pt I: NO GREATER LOVE Sprawling WWII drama that pits idealist Kaji against the Japanese war machine. Read more
Published on September 3, 2011 by Charles D. Fulton
4.0 out of 5 stars Good
The Human Condition has too many technical flaws, goes on too long, and, especially, its first 60% gets annoyingly moralistic and preachy at times (although Kaji does sink into a... Read more
Published on August 26, 2010 by Cosmoetica
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazon's Criterion Collection
The item come in great condition and is a great movie to add to my collection.
Published on March 26, 2010 by Summer Himes
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece for the World
However one may define the highest achievements of cinema, "The Human Condition" belongs in that panoply. Read more
Published on March 19, 2010 by Prisoner of Planet Moron
5.0 out of 5 stars atrocity brings out true humanity
"the human condition" is by far the most difficult movie that I have gone through, not only for its length but for the truthful account of being a honorable human being under... Read more
Published on January 4, 2010 by simone Orwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!!!
have heard alot about this film over the years. thanks to Criterion for bringing it back into circulation, i was able to purchase and watch it for the first time. Read more
Published on December 16, 2009 by Graham Bowles
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Topic From this Discussion
What's on the fourth disk of THC?
Yes, they're all on their own disc and the supplements ('cept for the essay, obviously) are all on the 4th disc. Though if you must know, the discs each have two parts on it. Apparently the fine folks at Criterion consider the film to be a six-parter instead of the generally accepted three part... Read More
Sep 16, 2009 by Euronymous Bosch |  See all 2 posts
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