USA Today - 03/16/3007
"[A] screen treatment so no-holds-barred that it could have been filmed yesterday..."
Sight and Sound - 06/01/2007
"[With] vivid expressionist imagery and stark absurdist humor..."
Director Kon Ichikawa's adaptation of Shohei Ooka's gruesome antiwar novel NOBI is a disturbingly bleak vision of war as the descent of men to the level of beasts. Set on the Philippine island of Leyte in 1945 as the fragmentary remains of the Japanese army engage in a swift retreat from advancing Allied forces, the film stars Eiji Funakoshi as Tamura, a tubercular Japanese soldier struggling to survive. Denied a billet by his squad or a bed by the hospital because of his lack of a food ration, he wanders the island plain, like many of his comrades, foraging desperately for food. At an empty village where wild dogs roam the streets, he opens a church door that disgorges a river of corpses. After killing one of the wild dogs that roams the streets feasting on the carnage, the soldier meets a couple that has returned to the area to recover a cache of salt, a precious commodity. When the woman begins screaming insanely at him, Tamura panics and shoots her, continuing to fire wildly at her fleeing husband while seizing the sackful of salt. Tamura then heads into a wooded area where even greater horror awaits. Funakoshi gives a hauntingly brilliant performance in a film whose relentless depiction of the effects of war is only occasionally relieved by Ichikawa's characteristic black humor.
Kon Ichikawa's powerful film centers on the terrifying brutality of war. As World War II comes to a close, Japanese troops in retreat in the Philippines run out of supplies and discipline crumbles, leading to horrifying acts of desperation.
Theatrical release: July 25, 1962.
Natto Wada, the film's screenwriter, is director Kon Ichikawa's wife. She wrote the screenplays for several of his films.