Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ningen no joken II (Masaki Kobayashi, 1959) aka The Human Condition II: The Road to Eternity

The Human Condition II: The Road to Eternity (Masaki Kobayashi, 1959)
Rating: 9.6

The second installment of the trilogy follows Kaji from his military training to the front. Most of the film conveys the brutal infrastructure of the Japanese military and Kaji's attempts to challenge the system. Michiko makes a visit and spends what they each know could very well be their last night together in a touching sequence that ends without a proper goodbye as Kaji promises he will survive and return to his wife. The first segment of part two follows a fellow recruit named Obara. Obara is the typical runt of the litter; cowardly, and inept, he is mocked and beaten by his fellow men. Before he kills himself he is made a fool of when forced to mimic a harlot. Kaji speaks out against the military, blaming it for Obara's suicide. Kaji also meets some other interesting characters on his journey including a fellow private who is also blacklisted and shares many of his own ideals. Shinjo talks of crossing the border in search of a comparatively "true freedom" and a fresh start. He makes his escape in perhaps the most thrilling scene of the film as a prairie fire breaks out and Kaji and a superior officer give chase across dangerous swamp lands. After several promotions Kaji leads a group of recruits into a battle against the Soviets which closes out part 2.

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