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The Human Condition Part II: Road to Eternity (Ningen no joken)


Dir. Masaki Kobayashi. 1959, 181 mins. 35mm. With Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiyo Aratama, Kei Sato, Kunie Tanaka. As the second episode of Kobayashi’s trilogy begins, Kaji (Nakadai) enters the Kwantung Army, stationed in the Japanese-controlled state of Manchukuo in mainland China. After surviving the dehumanizing effects of training—represented by boot camp scenes which may have inspired Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket—Kaji is caught in an attack by the Soviet army which devastates the unprepared Japanese, leaving him among the few scattered survivors. Illustrating Kaji’s transformation from callow idealism to hard pragmatism—“I’m a monster, but I’m going to stay alive,” he announces—Nakadai creates one of the most astonishing pieces of sustained character development in all of cinema.

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