Monday, March 03, 2008

Ningen no joken I (Masaki Kobayashi, 1959) aka The Human Condition I: No Greater Love

The Human Condition I: No Greater Love
Rating: 10

Both visually stunning and emotionally searing, the first installment of this 10 hour epic trilogy commences the journey of Kaji as he faces the human condition. Technically the film is almost flawless, with wonderful compositions that are beautifully blocked, framed, and lit. This film explores the many facets of the human experience in fascist Japan during WW-II. Inhumane acts as well as humanitarian ideals are expressed as Kaji tries to indoctrinate his revolutionary socialist and pacifistic beliefs on an ore mine, who's authority figures only know of exploitation and brutality towards their employees and Chinese POWs. Collectively the character's experience the full palette of human emotions from love, joy, and kindness, to fear, mistrust, greed, betrayal, manipulation, sorrow, guilt, and pity. It's interesting to see the treatment of different genders, classes, and ethnicities in the film as well, with characters ranging from men and women, harlots, prisoners, intellectuals, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, authority figures, and military men.

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