Letters from Iwo Jima
Saturday night, Terry and I watched this movie called “Letters from Iwo Jima” which portrays the Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers, filmed almost entirely in Japanese with subtitles. It a companion piece to Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers,” which depicted the same battle from the American viewpoint.
I have not yet seen “Flags of Our Fathers”, but this movie, this “Letters from Iwo Jima” was really, really awesome. I absolutly loved it. It was compelling, beautiful, sad, extremely well acted; it was a story about war, the heartbreak, the tradgedy, the complete pointlessness of it – of bravery, of love, of patriotisim – not about what side the soldiers were on. It transcending what war was being fought, because it was merely a story of people caught up in the middle of a war that was not theirs; a story of humanity, so to speak.
I particularly loved the preformance by Ken Watanabe (General Tadamichi Kuribayashi), whom I had previously enjoyed in “The Last Samurai” and “Batman Begins”. His preformance was subtle, brilliant and imbued with an artful, intelligent compassion, of integrity, of…noble civility.
Additionally, the relative newcomer, Kazunari Ninomiya (who is actually a boy-band singer in Japan – seriously). In the film he plays, Private First Class Saigo, a baker drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army; as the film starts, it is his platoon that are grudgingly digging beach trenches on Iwo Jima. He is surprisingly engaging, likable, charming – we follow along his point of view, the point of view of someone dragged out of their life to fight in a war that has very little to do with his life, and he’s expected to die for it – that it is an honor for him and his family if he dies. And he is entirely expected to die. From the very beginning, he is told that he is basically there on Iwo Jima to be cannon fodder, that his life is meaningless except to hold back the envitable tide of American barbarians. In a glance, he is – angry, shell shocked, desperate, and grief-struck. It’s like watching someone dealing with grief. But the grief is over the eminant loss of his own life that he’s staring into the face of.
The film was beautiful and sad. I highly recommend it.