Fires on the Plain - Criterion Collection
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A tubercular Japanese soldier walks among World War II horror. Directed by Kon Ichikawa.
Timeless and unforgettable, Kon Ichikawa's Fires on the Plain ranks highly among the most potent anti-war films ever made. Freely adapted from the 1952 novel by Shohei Ooka and set on the Japanese-occupied Philippine island of Leyte in February of 1945, the film presents a horrific landscape that instantly conveys the nightmarish conditions that existed during the final days of World War II. With a ghostly pallor, sunken eyes, and a case of tuberculosis that has isolated him from his fellow soldiers, the ragged and desperately hungry Tamura (Eiji Funakoshi) has orders to kill himself with a single grenade if he can't find medical attention at a nearby field hospital. Instead he wanders among stinking corpses, through abandoned villages where feral dogs pounce out of nowhere, and eventually encounters two skeletal comrades who are equally desperate to survive. As each of these men is drawn to an inevitable fate, Ichikawa (in close collaboration with his screenwriter wife Natto Wada) strips away any hint of political ideology, focusing on the physical and emotional devastation of survivors to illustrate, in Ichikawa's words, "a total denial [and a] total negation of war." Nearly 50 years before Clint Eastwood tapped into similar themes in Letters from Iwo Jima, Ichikawa was denouncing war with uncompromising bluntness that included (for the first time in a Japanese film) an acknowledgement that cannibalism occurred amidst other wartime atrocities. (In the film it's an indirect reference, but powerful nonetheless.) The result is a raw and powerful experience that fixes itself in your memory. Criterion's 2007 DVD release includes an informative 2006 video interview with renowned Japanese-film expert Donald Richie, video recollections (from 2005) featuring Ichickawa and actor Mickey Curtis, and a comprehensive booklet essay by film critic Chuck Stephens. --Jeff Shannon
- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- New video introduction by Japanese film scholar Donald Richie
- New video interviews with director Kon Ichikawa and actor Mickey Curtis
- Original theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Booklet with a new essay by film critic Chuck Stephens
Top Customer Reviews
"Fires on the Plain" tells the story of Tamura, a Japanese soldier in the Philipines in February, 1945; a time when defeat was turning into chaos. We witness the gradual metamorphis from civilized soldier to desperate animal as Tamura searches for a path to hope. It is a disturbing film but it is an educational film as well because of the way it allows us to examine the other side of victory.
I have always been curious about the demise of the defeated sides in WWII. Both fought well past the point of no return and suffered through incredible destruction until only a skeleton of its' empire remained to surrender. What must that have been like to experience? I have read books by Heinrich Boll that have given me something of an idea and other authors have as well. I recently finished an excellent book entitled "Japan at War: An Oral History". The eyewitness accounts of the disintegrating forces in the Philipines and other places fit the descriptions show in "Fires on the Plain". It is a disturbing portrait of a world of near-anarchy where survival is about the only instinct remaining. Truth IS stranger than fiction.
This is more than an anti-war film, it is a film of survival in defeat, and the primal nature of man to survive. Directed by Kon Ichikawa, one of the first scenes depicted is the vicious slapping of Private Tamura by one of his superiors. His crime? For having the audacity to return to his unit. You see Private Tamura is suffering from tuberculosis; as are many other soldiers; and his superior is angry that the private can no longer fend for himself; and instead must rely on his fellow soldiers who can barely fend for themselves. The unit is suffering from a shortage of food, and it's difficult enough for them to find food for themselves, let alone a weakened soldier.
The superior sends him back to the hospital with a few potatoes: and also in his possession is a hand grenade to kill himself with when he can no longer continue. Tamura constantly struggles with this: should I live, or die? However, when Tamura arrives at the hospital, he is refused: Only those near death are allowed in this hospital. Tamura must make a choice, unwanted in his own unit, and not allowed in the hospital, what is he to do?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
NOBI (FIRES ON THE PLAIN / BURNING OFF THE FIELDS [LIT.]). Antiwar And (Surprisingly) Apolitical.
Rating = ****
Director: Kon Ichikawa
Producers: Masaichi... Read more
Demonstrates the hopeless and helpless side of a war. You witness human depravity in circumstances beyond belief. This film must be viewed by anyone with an antiwar bent.Published on July 27, 2013 by Robert Rayno
Then this is one for you. I enjoy japanese movies...most have great stories, a plot and take TIME to develop. Some would say SLOW. Read morePublished on January 30, 2013 by Joseph C. Martinak
The names of Japanese directors that most Americans first come up with are Kurosawa and Ozu. Kon Ichikawa should be added to that list - his Fires on the Plain and The Burmese Harp... Read morePublished on December 17, 2012 by Harry O
Many people talk about the realism of Ichikawa Kon's anti-war film "Fire on the Plains" (A poetic translation of Japanese title "Nobi," meaning the burning off of fields during... Read morePublished on November 3, 2011 by Zack Davisson
I've had this DVD about 3 years and this is my third viewing. It usually takes that many times before I completely appreciate and understand a film. Read morePublished on July 8, 2011 by Laird M. Wilcox
The film subtly takes digs at the American enemy, who would later occupy the Japanese homeland. It portrays the Americans as unable to stop Filipino guerilla retribution on the... Read morePublished on August 25, 2010 by Cosmoetica