Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Sun (Сóлнце)
We all know how the catastrophic World War II ended decades ago; we are aware of the horrific crimes that Japan committed to China and other Asian countries; and we regret (or else) the tragic atomic bombing in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, what less known is the stage of mind of Japanese emperor Hirohito, who is at the center of these historical moments and is responsible of unforgivable crimes. Russian director Alexander Sokurov's "The Sun" (Сóлнце | Russia 2005 | in Japanese | 110 min.) gives an interesting fictional account of the emperor's life during the days leading to the announcement of Japan's unconditional surrender.
The film almost entirely sets in the dark and crampy bunker under the emperor's palace in Tokyo. The atomic bombs have destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Americans have occupied Tokyo, and the defeat of Japan becomes inevitable. Regarded by the Japanese as a descendant of sun goddess Amaterasu, the house arrested Japanese emperor Hirohito (Issei Ogata) comes to term that he is actually a human being facing the war crimes tribunal. He seems more interested in his marine biology hobby than people's lives, including both Japanese soldiers and victims from the Japanese invasions. He constantly moves his mouse nervously, a visible contrast to his mellow and slow body language. After a dinner with General MacArthur in his Charlie Chaplin's outfit and couple Cuban cigars, he goes back to his palace and declares Japanese's surrender. In return, he avoids war crime prosecution. What a deal!
It would have been fascinating if Hirohito were a fictional character. However, Hirohito is not just a character, he is a war criminal who is responsible for tens of thousands of innocent lives and countless gruesome criminal acts. Portraying him as a gentle, sophisticated, and sensitive human being is absurd.
Although Issei Ogata ("Yi Yi") marvelously plays the odd and complex Hirohito, almost everybody else in the film looks awkward and as if they are recruited from the streets because the real actors fail to show up on the set.
This film is the third installment of director Alexander Sokurov's film tetralogy about famous historical figures. Its predecessors are "Moloch" about Hitler and "Taurus" about Lenin. Whoever to be his final subject, he or she should be a Russian, because Alexander Sokurov understands Russians the best and is able to create terrific characters like the mother in his beautiful film "Alexandra".
Let's hope his last subject will not be Chairman Mao.