THE HUMAN CONDITION - NO GREATER LOVE
NINGEN NO JOKEN I
1959, Janus Films, 208 min, Japan, Dir: Masaki Kobayashi

In real life, director Masaki Kobayashi (KWAIDAN) served in the Japanese Imperial Army but continually refused promotion, remaining a private throughout the duration of WWII as a way of protest. In this first installment of what is probably Kobayashi’s most outstanding achievement as a filmmaker, Tatsuya Nakadai portrays a newlywed pacifist who is sent with his wife (Michiyo Aratama) to Manchuria to put into practice his theories for improving conditions at labor camps. But optimistic Nakadai is slowly undermined not just by his civilian superiors’ complacency but also the brutal inhumanity of the military police overseers. The opening salvo of one of the great cinematic sagas of the 20th century, a classic that stands alongside Rossellini’s OPEN CITY, Kurosawa’s IKIRU and Kazan’s ON THE WATERFRONT as a social document defining personal courage. "A richly rewarding visual and human experience in all its bleakness. … Nakadai’s performance as a man of Christ-like forbearance, who travels to the edge of human endurance in a doomed and lonely struggle against an evil society, is both moving and charismatic.” – Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com.


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