Notable Cast: Shinya Tsukamoto, Lily Franky, Tatsuya Nakamura, Yusaku Mori, Yuko Nakamura
Being completely upfront before we move on with this review: 1) I have not seen the original film, which this film only loosely takes notes from I hear, and 2) I have not read the original novel. That out of the way, I have seen every single Shinya Tsukamoto film to date (save Hiruko the Goblin, which is changing very soon). Going into this film as a huge Tsukamoto admirer, to the point that he is in a three-way tie for my favorite director, I had quite the expectations. Needless to say, I wasn't let down by his newest outing whatsoever, and it was great to see Tsukamoto finally make that film on the horrors of war that he has wanted to for years. Fires on the Plain is a very gory, and harrowing look at men who aren't on the front lines, but rather haunted by their unfamiliar surroundings that quickly consume them and morph these soldiers into very different beings, capable of the unspeakable.
Right from the get go, Tsukamoto throws you in front and center to the horrors that plague he and his fellow comrades. Scattered, and limited in number, Tsukamoto (who is also the lead in the film) finds his own way to a small, stolen shack set up as a medical center, to get treated for a severe cough he has. He is given some rations and finds himself wandering about, trying to help fallen soldiers, returning for more rations and questions pertaining to his sickness, and so on. The shack is destroyed by a passing plane one night, and he hightails it out of there, leaving only corpses behind. Most of Fires on the Plain features a wandering Tsukamoto, as he encounters various soldiers and local villagers, who naturally are quite hostile, given the dire circumstance. It's exactly as I imagined war was back then, and perhaps so now. I won't get into personal politics and beliefs here, but the hell of war, as many say, seems to be vivid and unapologetic in its depiction here. It never showcases gore for gore's sake, though some may argue that, and it never holds back, and in fact it shows far more than I even thought Tsukamoto would ever display. He is known for his extreme cinema, but knowing a lot about the director himself, and his thoughts on certain topics, war is something that has loomed over his head for years, and this really showcases the nightmares of that reality that we are all just a moment's notice away from being slung into. It is truly frightening that people can do these things to one another, no matter how much time passes and progression as a species occurs. At the end of the day, our own stubborn beliefs turns us against one another, no question about it.
|Amidst the chaos, there remains fragments of beauty.
I can't honestly really find anything to point out as flaws that I'd hold against the overall piece. I don't think it is a perfect film, but oddly can't put my finger on what holds back to that high level of awe. One thing, which is more of a nitpick than anything, is that Yusaku Mori as Nagamatsu really got on my nerves at times, with his constant crying, but who knows how one would act in a time as such. Everything really fires on all cylinders. I wasn't particularly a fan of the editing in the beginning, though it does suit the nauseating paranoia that our lead hero is experiencing. It's not bad editing per say, but I would have like to not felt so slung around right off the bat. After another visit, whenever I can stomach it, that thought may change entirely. The cinematography is great here and the score by long time collaborator Chu Ishikawa is just as effective as ever, and once again, really burrows itself deeply into your conscious. Almost every thing about this one is top notch to me. I don't tend to focus on specific scenes, and will dodge details here, but the final scenes really spoke to me and capped the film off in a perfect way. No spoilers, but the ending moments I have thought about more than almost the entirety of the rest of the film.
|War is Hell.
Written by Josh Parmer