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Gunki Hatameku Motoni

Under the Flag of the Rising Sun
Under the Fluttering Military Flag

Japan 1972
produced by
Seichi Matsumaru, Eigasha Shinsei, Shohei Tokizane for Toho
directed by Kinji Fukasaku
starring Tetsuro Tanba, Sachiko Hidari, Shinjiro Ebara, Isao Natsuyagi, Sanae Nakahara, Yumiko Fujita, Noboru Mitani, Taketoshi Naito, Kan'emon Nakamura
screenplay by Kinji Fukasaku, Norio Osada, Kaneto Shindo, based on the novel by Shoji Yuki, music by Hikaru Hayashi

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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At the end of World War II, Sergeant Katsuo Togashi (Tetsuro Tanba) is executed, supposedly for desertion in the face of the enemy, but there is no official record aboutthe real reasons - and for the 16 years since then, his widow Sakie (Sachiko Hidari) has been trying to find out what has happened, and whants justice done to the memory of her husband. It's only now that the proper authorities have come up with 5 men who might be able to help her, who had some dealings with her husband back in the war.

The first is Terajima (Noboru Mitani), who's living on a scrap heap in a half-crazed state of mind, and who insists Togashi has saved his life during the war by ignoring a direct order from a superior and later died bravely in battle - though he himself did not see him.

The next two witnesses though paint a less flattering picture, portraying him as either a potato thief or a man who sold human flesh as animal meat to starving soldiers.

Then though, Sakie meets Ohashi, who tells her yet another story, that Togashi and his squadron were mistreated by borderline mad major Goto, a man who wouldn't even mind torturing his soldiers to death for his own purposes. Eventually, it seems, Togashi got so desperate he slit Boto's throat, also to save his men. Only five of Togashi's squadron survived, but a certain Major Senda (Kan'emon Nakamura) had them executed right on the spot without court martial to hush up Goto has gone mad.

Next on Sakie's list is Major Senda, but the man is evasive when it comes to the story of her husband, contradicts himself constantly while trying to feed her with empty, patriotic phrases. But ultimately, he admits to having the soldiers executed after the end of the war, and maybe even without court martial, but in any case to restore order ... but he hasn't executed all of them, one is still alive - Terajima.

Sakie returns to the scrapyard to talk to Terajima once again, and he now tells her the truth: Yes, Goto was a sadistic asshole, and yes, Togashi has killed him, but only to save his, Terajima's life. Terajima was at the time half-starved and struck down by malaria, and in no state to walk - but Goto waqnted him to fight. A few days after Goto's death, the war was over, and the survivors of Togashi's squad dragged themselves to the next camp, but were much too weak themselves to drag Terajima with them. Left behind and desperate, Terajima fed himself on Major Goto's flesh, then followed the others to the camp. The others were already being questioned by Senda, and desperate to survive, Terajima blew the whistle on them but figured if he told Senda that Goto was mad (which was the truth anyways), Togashi and the others would come off lightly - and yet they were all shot,, cursing the emperor with their dying breath.

 

Very bleak war story that's surprisingly low on battle scenes, instead focuses on the inhumanity of war as such (including a condemnation of the Japanese involvement in the war), and has its story revolving around its characters - which change repeatedly depending on who is telling the story. The outcome is a compelling antiwar drama, told in an interesting way via flashbacks that resembles more the structure of a murder mystery than a war movie, and brought to screen very stylishly by director Kinji Fukasaku, who, originally coming from B-action flicks, has by the time this was made found his own cinematic language.

Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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