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Fires on the Plain (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2014)

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Tsukamoto's new war film, based on the same novel as Kon Ichikawa's film of the same title, had it's world premiere in Venice a while ago. Looks pretty damn promising. Seems like Tsukamoto decided to bite those right wingers in the ass and rip a part of it off :tongue:


Website: http://nobi-movie.com/


It is towards the end of World War II. After invading an island in the Philippines, Japanese servicemen meet fierce counter-offensive from the locals and the allied forces. It’s just a matter of time before the few survivors are wiped out. Suffering from tuberculosis private Tamura is abandoned by both his platoon and the mobile hospital. A group of soldiers with untreatable sicknesses and injuries are outside the hospital, just waiting to die. Private Tamura joins them but that night, artillery fire destroys the hospital. Tamura escapes injury and roams into the jungle. He throws himself into the overwhelming force of nature expecting that his end is near. Unable to go on anymore he takes out his grenade ready to kill himself when he notices some yams growing in the wild. The only problem is that the yams are inedible unless they’re cooked. Tamura goes to a village in search of matches. But there’s nothing there as the villagers have fled. Tamura takes a nap in a church when a young couple turns up. The woman screams in horror when she sees Tamura so he pulls the trigger of his rifle to silence her. She’s the first person he’s ever murdered. Tamura roams the jungle which is now hell on earth, with piles of bodies everywhere. Extreme fatigue numbs his mind and hunger changes him. When he starts to view his companions as food, he crosses a threshold into a realm where there are no friends, enemies or God.

Director’s Statement

I’ve been making movies about humans trapped in the city. With this film I want to show modern city dwellers that the city is not the world. That it’s just a rudderless boat floating in the sea of nature. By showing people engaged in the foolishness of war, I wanted to ask why we opt to go to war. If fighting is our primal instinct, I wanted to investigate if intelligence had a role to play in it. I don’t believe in propaganda movies. So what you take away from my film is up to you. I can sense the seventy-year-old horror and screams of those who decayed in the jungle. I pick it up on a radar that’s directly connected to my spine and I injected those sensations into every frame. If you smelled any of that, I succeeded.

- http://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/71st-festival/line-up/off-sel/venezia71/nobi.html?back=true

Tsukamoto on the film:


First comments

Fires on the Plain: Tetsuo goes to war. Violent and vital and stunning. The most visually arresting film thus far

- John Bleasdale

Fires on the Plain (Tsukamoto): mad and cacophonous jungle war hell-stew. Kon Ichikawa would approve, then puke

- Robbie Collin

Shinya Tsukamoto's powerful Fires on the Plain puts Spielberg's battle scenes to shame. The horrors of war as never seen before.

- Simon Popek

and a couple of reviews

Brilliantly bonkers Japanese film reminds us war is hell

- Xan Brooks

Tsukamoto’s movie is pure cinema

- Jo-Ann Titmarsh

A visceral, uncompromising anti-war film not for the weak of stomach

- Deborah Young

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Twitch recently posted coverage of the movies question and answer session with director Tsukamoto Shinya, composer Ishikawa Cyu, and cast members Riri Frankie and Mori Yusska at the Tokyo FILMeX Film Festival. Check it out at the link below -


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Website is also updated and reveals they managed to get a pg-12 for it! The film's climax is supposed to be total splatter.


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Finally had time to see this. Quite a good film. The digital cinematography looks a bit rough and digital but you forget about it pretty soon. The minimal budget doesn't really show other than in the digital cinematography and the idea that the enemy is almost never seen (bullets and grenades just start coming out of seemingly nowhere), which however works fine for a jungle war film. This film really shows war at its ugliest: there's nothing pretty or heroic about it. Popular war movies like American Sniper or Fury or Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War all seem strangely clean and polished in comparison.

I don't think this is necessarily among Tsukamoto's very best films - it's still kind of missing a little bit something in terms of storyline and audio/visual execution -  but it doesn't matter. It's a very solid movie and comes recommended. I would personally rank this in the same category as Kotoko, which I also thought was pretty good.

And yes, the film carries a pg-12 rating in Japan. Which is absolutely fucking insane. You get headshots, arms and legs blown off, brains splattered on the ground (and one solder stepping on those brains) and of course cannibalism.

Tsukamoto is very serious about educating youngsters about the horrors of war, though. He's been inviting high school students to the screenings and holding discussion events with them after the movie to discuss the film and its themes.

The film is performing over the expectations, being a bit of a mini-theater* hit. 30 00 admissions in three weeks so far. It seems to be more than they expected for such a non-commercial film which Tsukamoto is distributing by himself. That being said, the (supposedly) nationalistic mainstream war epic The Eternal Zero sold 7 million tickets a year ago, so that's the sad reality out there...

* Japan has this really cool thing called "mini-theater ranking", which excludes all big multiplexes and only includes small theaters. This allows you to see how smaller audience films are performing, which is really good because those films would never be able to enter the national top 10 list (you'd need a very wide distribution for that, and only major studios could do that)

Weekly Mini Theater Ranking (in Japanese):

National Weekly Top 10 (in Japanese):


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Unfortunately this release has been delayed.  A shame, as with this and 'Doberman Cop', June was shaping up to be a fantastic month for Japanese cinema releases in the UK.  Here's hoping the guys over at Third Window Films sort out the issue soon.  Below is a cap from their most recent newsletter - 


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