Violent Japanese anti-war film is a contender at Venice festival

Tue Sep 2, 2014 11:11am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - One of the most powerful and violent films to be shown at the Venice Film Festival this year, Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto's "Nobi" (Fires on the Plain), delivers a stinging anti-war message bathed in blood.

A remake of a 1959 classic, the film, shown late on Monday and in competition for the main festival prize, sticks to the plot of Kon Ichikawa's earlier film about defeated Japanese troops in the Philippines in World War Two.

The version by Tsukamoto, whose past horror-and-fantasy-tinged films have earned him a reputation as an auteur of the strange, pumps up the volume in terms of severed body parts, bloody stumps of arms, maggot-ridden corpses and starving soldiers descending into cannibalism.

Tsukamoto also plays Private Tamura, the main character in the film, which dwells on the dead and the dying among Japanese troops towards the end of the war. It shows the limits of human endurance, and the desperate measures people will take to survive.

"In the last year all the people that had experienced war are getting older and older and many of them have died, so there are very few people who can testify and say what war really is," Tsukamoto told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

"At the same time, the political situation in Japan is getting worse and worse and it's going back to the past, militarily speaking, and also politically speaking," he said, referring to Japan's recent moves to bolster its military.

"So I just wanted to somehow push everyone's feelings towards these kinds of conditions. I want to address the audience as normal people to say 'We are in danger', but at the same time I want to warn politicians and people who are in charge, saying 'You are making bad choices and you must be careful not to go back to the past'."

"This is the reason I made this film."   Continued...

Director Shinya Tsukamoto (C) poses with cast members Lily Franky (L) and Tatsuya Nakamura during the photo call for the movie "Nobi" (Fires on the plain) at the 71st Venice Film Festival September 2, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile