Fires On The Plain (1959)

KON ICHIKAWA

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

Original title:  Nobi

Japan, 1959.  Daiei Studios, Kadokawa Herald Pictures.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by , . Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Film Editing by .  

A soldier stationed in the Philippines towards the end of World War II is the lone survivor after his entire platoon is killed, leaving him to wander the landscape in search of fellow soldiers and provisions. What he finds are miles of scorched earth loaded with putrefying bodies, while the people he finds still alive are either Filipinos from whom he takes (forcibly or not) supplies or fellow Japanese soldiers who are themselves beyond the point of sanity or reason. Kon Ichikawa’s devastating war film isn’t as gorgeously humane as The Burmese Harp, he focuses much more on the cynical side here, with the devastation of war taking the form of the physical remnants of charred bodies in endless mud. It’s just as compelling and gorgeously shot an exercise in cinema as the other film was, however, a moving and intellectually dense journey into the darkest regions of human behavior.

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