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1939: Japanese nurse Nishi (Ayako Wakao) is sent to a field hospital in
China, where she has to treat the wounded, but for some of them, the usual
treatment is not enough, and before long, she is raped by a patient,
private Sakamoto, with the others in the room watching and cheering, since
they all haven't seen a woman in months. The next day, Nishi complains
about him and as a result, he is sent back to the frontline, to his death
as he puts it.
A few weeks later, Nishi is relocated to a frontline hospital, where
her main function is to keep patients still while head surgeon Okabe
(Shinsuke Ashida) amputates their arms and legs. Eventually, Nishi bumps
into her rapist, Sakamoto, who's hardly alive anymore, and Okabe has
already given up on him - but when Nishi promises to come to Okabe's room
that night, he agrees to try to save his life ... but fails - the first
death Nishi feels directly responsible for.
Nishi still keeps her promise and visits Okabe in his room that night,
but to her surprise he doesn't demand sex but merely wants someone to
drink with and talk to, and someone who gives him a morphine injection ...
and somehow, Nishi falls in love with Okabe.
Eventually, Nishi is ordered back to the field hospital, where she
meets private Orihara (Yusuke Kawazu), a soldier who has lost his arms but
is not sent back to Japan because seeing armless veterans might turn the
populace against the war. Nishi feels sorry enough for Orihara that she
gives him a handjob when he demands it, later even takes him to a hotel to
have sex with him ... but the very next day, he commits suicide, and Nishi
feels responsible for his death as well.
Later, Nishi is ordered back to the frontline hospital, where the
situation has worsened and she now even has to remove bullets from wounded
soldiers ... but still she has Okabe, who soon also falls in love with her
- but unfortunately he's impotent and addicted to morphine.
When Okabe is transferred to a frontline village, Nishi decides to go
with him and takes young nurse Tsuruzaki (Ayako Ikegami) with her. The
village though is worse than anything else since cholera has broken out,
and among the prostitutes (or relief women, as they are called here) too,
so the soldiers also try to rape the nurses. Plus the Chinese are closing
in by the minute. And Okabe can't get his regular morphine-shot and seems
to go crazy. Eventually though, Nishi can cure him of both his addiction
and his impotence in one go, and everything suddenly seems perfect ...
which is when the Chinese attack and literally wipe out the village. Only
Nishi miraculously survives with hardly a scratch on her, but when she
sees dead nurse Tsuruzaki, this is the third death she feels directly
responsible for ... and she also finds dead Okabe, leaving her in pieces
Very bleak movie with a strong antiwar-message despite the fact that
there isn't any actual fighting shown until the very end. However, the
many images of dead soldiers and amputated limbs, the surgery scenes and
the blood flowing look like nothing short of hell and are sure to make an
impression on even the most indifferent of viewers.
In all, the film is nothign short of impressive, and maybe the
strongest antiwar film there is - just don't expect it to be in the least
bit uplifting ...