2007年02月08日

Letters from Iwo Jima

今日見てきた『硫黄島からの手紙』の鑑賞文。
ついつい長くなってしまいました。

I'd actually been wanting to see this movie for some time for a
number of reasons.

First of all, I'm passionately interested in WWII history in general, especially since I read Toyoko Yamazaki's epic "Two Homelands" last year. Any film that is set in this era will rouse my curiosity, although said curiosity quickly abates if the film is a historically inaccurate one-sided one, such as "Pearl Harbor" and the numerous recent Japanese films that serve only to whitewash and glorify the war.

Second, I was intrigued by the interview Ken Watanabe gave in TIME magazine, where he talked about the character he portrayed, Lt. General Kuribayashi. I'd read about Kuribayashi in Yamazaki's book and had been very impressed; Watanabe's interview served only to heighten my esteem for this historical figure.

And last but not least, how could I miss all the rave reviews in numerous publications? Not to mention the Oscar nomination.

I knew I had to see this movie on the big screen.

Although catching the one o'clock show today meant putting lunch off until four, it was well worth it (I was having trouble digesting my McBreakfast anyway) as it fully lived up to my expectations.

Clint Eastwood did a remarkable job contrasting the bleakness of Iwo Jima and the poverty of the Japanese homeland against the affluence of California. The sheer wealth of the U.S. is dizzying, even, and one cannot help but be in total agreement with Kuribayashi when he states that it is total madness for Japan to wage a war with this superpower.

A lot of attention has been paid to detail (Were those real Hermes riding boots that Baron Nishi was wearing?), and the movie is probably a great primer for western audiences, like the fact that while the Americans were armed with machine guns, the Japanese only had single-shot rifles; how many Japanese seriously believed that sheer willpower would overcome differences in logisitics; how resources were so scarce that even cooking equipment was requisitioned so that it could be melted down for iron. And as Kuribayashi notes, the Americans were producing 5 million cars a year at that time!
(By the way, those rifles were called 38s because they were 1905 models; 1905 being the 38th year of Emperor Showa's reign. In the movie, none of the soldiers hit the targets during target practice, but who can blame them when they only have 40-year-old guns?)

There are no good guys or bad guys in the movie. Some men are stubborn, some men are narrow-minded, some are just plain ignorant, but they are all trying to do their jobs. Like any great war movie, it tells us that men are not evil, only war; that war is dehumanizing but some men somehow manage to hold onto their humanity.
In this sense, my favorite character was actually Ito (played by Ryo Kase, who stars in another hot movie: "I Just Didn't Do It").

Watching a movie like this forces me to ask myself: How would I react in such a situation? Would I be able to hang on to my ideals and my humanity, or would I be swept along in the madness like the rest of the crowd? I am not confident that it would be the former. And as evidenced by the recent natto craze, the Japanese people as a whole are easily led by the nose.

Another point that struck a chord with me was how antagonistic the other officers are toward Kuribayashi, who has seen more of the world than they have. Although xenophobia is (for the most part) no longer much of an issue, I believe that this suspicion of people who have lived, studied, or worked overseas, is still prevalent in the minds of many Japanese. Even in my father's company, there was a clear dividing line between those who had stayed in Japan for their entire careers and those who had been posted overseas. There may be curiosity, interest, and even respect, but "returnees" are still considered "different" in a culture that prides itself on its homogenity.

Which, I suppose, is why the scriptwriter decided that Kuribayashi and Baron Nishi, another English-speaking, well-traveled Japanese officer on Iwo Jima, should be friends. This, I personally found to be a little jarring. Would a general who insisted that he have the same meal as the lowliest private really befriend a colonel who cantered around on his horse for fun while his men were hard at work?
(A quick check on Wikipedia confirmed that the two had definitely not been buddies.)

One final detail that upset me slightly was the sloppiness of the Japanese subtitles. Most of the movie was in Japanese, so there were subtitles for only the brief snippets of conversation that were in English, but many of the ones I couldn't help glimpsing were wide of the mark.
Because I tried hard not to look at them too much, I don't remember any of the mistakes clearly bar one:
In one scene, one of two American soldiers who are guarding two Japanese POWs says (of the POWs) "They're sitting ducks." However, the subtitles twist this into "They're gonna shoot us," (since the POWs are unarmed, one can only suppose that "they" refers to the rest of the Imperial Army) which turns the situation on its head.
The other errors may not have been quite as bad, but couldn't they have paid this great movie a little more respect?
posted by EnglishMaster at 00:38| Comment(0) | TrackBack(0) | English | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする
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